In order to get their ‘unique’ identities in the form of Aadhaar cards, citizens first have to submit documents in proof of their ‘regular’ identities — PAN card details, passport copies, bank details, and other significant personal documents that testify for their age, date of birth and address.
But is your identity, or at least the documents that prove it, safe with agencies deployed by the UIDAI to provide you your ‘unique’ identity? A recent discovery by MiD DAY gives evidence to the contrary. In yet another glaring instance of carelessness, sensitive documents of over 1,000 Aadhaar applicants — including PAN cards, hard copies of forms, and bank details — have been lying in a state of neglect in the cupboard of a housing society in Jogeshwari (West), in the room where an Aadhaar camp was organised for residents almost two years ago.
In July 2011, Malcolm Baug, a colony in Jogeshwari (West), organised an Aadhaar camp for residents and neighbouring societies in the area. Their aim was to make the enrollment process easy for the people. Over 1,000 people from the area participated in the camp, making it a huge success.
Almost two years have passed since, and many of the residents are now proud owners of Aadhaar cards. However, copies of the compulsory documents they had submitted as proof of identity, as well as hard copies of the forms, were left behind by the agency that filed the data. Farokh Shaher, secretary of the Malcolm Baug Zoroastrian Association said, “On July 17, 2011, we organised an Aadhaar camp for our residents. We had spoken to the authorities and set up a centre at the community centre. The camp was a big success but it’s been almost two years now, and the documents which they had asked for from applicants continue to lie in our office.”
He added, “We have spoken at least 10 times to the enrollment agency in charge of data collection for Aadhaar cards in the colony — asking them to collect the documents. Each time, we were told that they would send an authorised representative to collect the papers in two days. But no one turned up. It is shocking that such sensitive information is lying around in sorry neglect. Reposing their trust in the authorities, the residents of the colony provided copies of address proof and date of birth. But they had no idea that their information would be left like this.”
Threat of data theft
An office bearer expressed relief at the fact that the copies and the forms are lying in the cupboard and not elsewhere, in which case the data could easily be misused by others.
Shaher added that even though he has sent a slew of e-mails to the Aadhaar helpline in January, no one has contacted him yet. The documents and forms of over 1,000 people continue to lie in the office cupboard. “We don’t know if we should return the residents their information or continue to wait for a reply from the Aadhaar officials.”
MiD DAY contacted a few residents of the society, who expressed shock and outrage at the news. “How can officials not take care of the documents? We provide them with copies of our PAN cards and even our bank details and, it’s not even protected. It’s a true shame,” said a resident.
Another resident scoffed at the Aadhaar enrollment programme, pointing out that it made no sense to ask for hard copies of documents when the process was being conducted online. “The whole thing is a joke,” he added.
The Other Side
An official from the UID regional office said, “Data collection is the responsibility of the enrollment agency. We provide them with a definite timeframe in which to provide us with the data packages. During phase I, in which the residents enrolled for the cards, there were a few errors owing to which the documents were left behind. However, in phase II no such errors are occurring.”
Santosh Bhogle, state nodal UID officer and undersecretary, IT department of Maharashtra, expressed shock at the situation. “It is very wrong that these hard copies and documents are lying unattended. People trustingly provide their details, what has occurred is unfortunate. It was the responsibility of the agency responsible for data collection to submit the documents for processing to the government,” he said.