Before I start a few obligatory statements and clarifications:
- Mera Bharat Mahan.
- Aadhar is not a card but a number
- Pakistan did not kill my father, the war did.
- I did not score a triple century my bat did
Having got that out of the way and proved that I am a deeply patriotic Indian, I must say that I have been increasingly disturbed by the bedlam caused by our Government insisting that you need to add your Aadhar number when filing your Income Tax Return.
The most voluble opposition to Aadhar is based on the premise that the data captured when making an Aadhar is not secure i.e. the data can be hacked easily and confidentiality is not safeguarded. The paranoids take this further and say that because of this lack of confidentiality “Big Brother” can monitor you and this could be to your detriment.
Of course there are several other arguments to oppose Aadhar. These fall into what I call the “Exceptions must be the Rule Bucket”. Just because a minuscule number of people do not have usable fingerprints [old people have bad quality fingerprints as do labourers] the whole system should be shut down. This type of argument is common in India – the Exception must be the Rule. In fact that is why we have so many bans. A small proportion of the population is affected by a book or a movie means instant banning.
Anyway, again generalizing, the opposition to Aadhar comes from our Intelligentsia, our Great Indian Intellectual, also the Great Indian Liberal, the NGO, and the Jholawalla. Of course, again generalizing, all these folks do not need an Aadhar. They can get by quite easily without one. It is the poor who really need an Aadhar.
I am proceeding on the footing that the Aadhar data is in fact not secure, that it can be hacked, it can be easily accessed and it can be misused. Agree. I say yes, you are correct. However, I have a couple of questions for you Jholawallas.
My first question is, other things being equal; I have not quite understood how providing your Aadhar with your Income Tax return would by itself increase your risk. In other words when you do provide your Aadhar with your Tax Return, can your Tax Return be seen by the same hacker who hacks your Aadhar information. Could you please answer this? I really want to know.
My second question is that to the best of my knowledge the amount of data captured on the Aadhar system is not only rather irrelevant but is also insignificant. Yes, you have the name, address and details of what subsidies are paid into your bank account. The point I am making is how secure is your tax return? The Tax Return has far more serious information. All your investments, your sources of income and God Knows what else. Is there any security built into the disclosure of this Information? In fact, with the multiple reporting requirements that are in place, the Income Tax Department get information from several sources – your Bank, your Stock Broker, the BSE & NSE for your trades, from the Sub Registrar when you register any document buying and selling property, from Jewelers, from Credit Card Issuers and so many more. Is any of this secure?
Let us also proceed on the footing that the data behind the Aadhar is tiddlywinks when compared to the data in a Tax Return.
By the same token, is the PAN number secure? The PAN is directly related to your Tax Return. Can you hack the PAN? Is the date secure? I have no idea.
Leave hacking aside for the moment. Let us deal with simple physical disclosure.
Giving someone a Xerox copy of your Aadhar, in my opinion poses no problems and discloses no information. The Jholawallas have a problem with the Aadhar. What about all of us happily handing out copies of our Tax Returns to all and sundry. If you want to open a bank account, or a Demat account or a trading account are some of the instances that come to my mind when you will be forced to hand over your Tax Return, which you will do without a second thought. Is there even a fig leaf of security? The physical copy of your return is bandied about by all kinds of people. Do we protest?
What about applying for a visa? If you apply for a visa to travel to the USA, Great Britain or any Western European country you will happily give a copy of your tax return to your travel agent. The travel agent will pass it on to all his peons who will in turn it over to VSF the Visa Handling Agency and so on and so forth. If you do not have a travel agent, you can remove one layer of inquisitive peons, but, the position is not much better. Is any of this potent information confidential? I seriously doubt it. What does the Consulate do with all this paper, I have no idea. Is it secure?
Could you ask the Jholawallas, so het up about confidentiality, if they have ever refused to give their tax returns to a Consulate when applying for a visa on grounds of lack of confidentiality? I am sure the answer will be no. All our friendly Intelligentsia, Great Indian Intellectuals and Liberals need their visits abroad. They would give their right arm leave aside the tax return. The NGO and the Jholawalla are even more pathetic. They need their precious projects – A Review on the Impact of Well Water on the Basket Weavers of Bastaar or The need for Toilets in Andaman - approved and their grants and funding from the Ford Foundation. They too will happily give in their tax returns.
I am not for the moment suggesting that Aadhar should not be made more secure. What I am saying is that why should we have double standards. We should have highest confidentiality for Aadhar as well as our tax returns. Strict rules should put in place that if anyone misuses or discloses your Tax Return, he should be jailed. Why should all manner of peons have access to your tax returns I cannot understand?
As I was writing this post, I was sent a link to an article on Aadhar published in the Leftist i.e. Intellectual rag Scroll.in which you can read here. I cannot tell you how utterly stupid the argument is in that article. This post is not to critique that article, but to make you aware of the sheer “intelligence” of our Intelligentsia. The articles states that the Aadhar card is not proof of citizenship. Agreed. The article then says that the Aadhar card is one of the documents that the Passport authorities accept when issuing the passport. The article argues that if the Aadhar is not a proof of citizenship how can it be used to issue a passport, which is a proof of citizenship. I was dumbstruck by this argument. To my simple mind, a passport is the primary proof of citizenship. There is no document issued prior to a passport that proves your citizenship. Further, the other documents that are acceptable to the passport authorities viz: Utility Bills, residence rent receipts or letters of residence by the Secretary of the housing Society, PAN cards, etc., none of them are proofs of citizenship. Any foreigner [read Bangladeshi] can get these documents as a matter of course. To say the least I am mystified at the intelligentsia’s stream of thoughts.
I really despair at how daft the Intelligentsia, Great Indian Intellectuals and Liberals are. There are huge problems in India with information and its confidentiality. It would have benefited us all if their opposition to Aadhar on grounds of confidentiality would have been expanded to things like our data being held by so many diverse repositories. But then, I guess I am expecting too much from our Intelligentsia, Great Indian Intellectuals and Liberals.