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Do you know why Aadhaar is NOT compulsory: Ram Krishnaswamy

April 15, 2013

This is a guest post by Ram Krishnaswamy For the last three years activists opposing Aadhaar/UID have argued that it can lead to communal targeting, can aid illegal migrants, can invade privacy, is unconstitutional, does not have parliamentary approval, is illegal, etc. Yet all such objections and more have been successfully stonewalled by UIDAI and UPA leaders.

Further, Aadhaar is not compulsory and so such allegations are considered invalid. The middle and upper class Indians have remained silent about the UID debate, as it does not affect them in the least. The long lines of persons stretching before UID enrollment centers must be proof, then, of the popularity of this concept.

Nandan Nilekani and UIDAI Director General R.S Sharma have repeatedly told the nation that UID, now called Aadhaar, is not mandatory. Yet, over a period of time, they say, it could become ubiquitous, if service providers insist upon it compulsorily, in order to receive their services. To quote UIDAI Chairman, Nandan Nilekani, “Yes, it is voluntary. But the service providers might make it mandatory. In the long run I wouldn’t call it compulsory. I’d rather say it will be come ubiquitous.”

From the time GOI toyed with the idea of a Unique Identity number for the poor and the marginalized Indian population, the nation has been told Aadhaar is not compulsory.

Ever wondered why?

One question activists have never asked is, “Why is Aadhaar not compulsory?”

The reason is so obvious, and staring us in the face all along, yet no one seems to have picked it up. This question throws more light on what is going on and why.

On the very face of it, both these schemes “UID/NPR and Cash Transfers” echo Mohammad Bin Tughlaq – the wisest fool in India’s history so far. Schemes like these are not the way to build a great nation; indeed they may be exactly the way to create a generation of paupers. Poverty was “good” until the time the poor had the dignity to fight it out and move up the ladder. Pauperization however, would kill the very consciousness and self-dignity critical for a nation of 1 billion plus to survive and march forward.

The history of the human race suggests that master position-holders always wanted some form of identification of their slaves. The slave’s name and family links were not adequate. Galley slaves had the letters GAL burnt into their arms. In imperial Russia the Katorshniki (public slaves) were branded in a grisly manner – the letters KAT being punctured on their cheeks and forehead; and gunpowder rubbed into their wounds. In several countries, slaves had their heads shorn, except for a pigtail from the crown. The shorn head was symbolic of castration, loss of manliness, power and freedom. Slavery is one of the most extreme forms of the relation of domination approaching the limits of total power from the view point of the master and the total powerlessness from the view point of the slave. All power strives for authority.

In the current context in India, the “Master” is the State, which suggests that the poor need just Rs 32 a day to survive, while the bourgeois masters can afford to spend Rs 500 for a meal. The “slaves” are the Indian population living below poverty levels, who are told that, unless you have a number linked to finger prints, you will not be allowed to avail subsidised grain at Rupees 3 a kilo. A slave in India today is a socially dead person who can be identified only by a number issued by the master, and not his/her  paternity, or maternity, or other social links to the world.

The question that many activists have often been asked is, “Why should you worry about privacy, if you do not have anything to hide?” The corollary to this question just hit me today, “People who have something to hide certainly do not want a Unique Identity number which is linked to their biometrics, meaning their fingerprints and iris scan.”

Recent sting operations suggest that many banks in India facilitate money laundering allowing corrupt individuals with black money to convert them into white money without the person’s identity being questioned. It is amazing how easily the bankers assist in converting unaccounted black money to white. Now imagine how the corrupt in India would react to Aadhaar being compulsory. The Aadhaar number and associated biometrics can be used by law enforcement agencies to link and expose all hidden stashes, not only in India but even in Swiss banks and Singapore banks, now that Singapore is the haven for parking illegal funds.

If Aadhaar is made compulsory over time, the associated biometrics could be used to expose all corrupt bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen, making them all vulnerable.  Surely the government does not want to facilitate such a monster. That is why Aadhaar is not compulsory. It is time for all activists to challenge UIDAI Chairman and UPA II government to make Aadhaar compulsory, and help flush out the cancer that is eating the nation from within.

Mr Nilekani, once you asked the question, “What am I? A virus?”

Prove to us you are not a virus, by making Aadhaar compulsory for all Indians, rich and poor, and show us that your ‘Imagining India’ was a genuine attempt to serve the nation.

Surely you do not want to facilitate a system where all people are equal, except some people are more equal than others, and have the right to decline an Aadhaar. But rest assured, the day UIDAI and GOI make Aadhaar compulsory, the nation, meaning the rich and powerful, will show you their true colours regarding UID.

As a Nation we should join hands and ask UPA II the question:

“Why is Aadhaar not compulsory ?”

Why does Aadhaar discriminate the haves and have-nots creating a new caste system that will further divide an all ready fragmented country?

Aadhaar is not compulsory so that low life criminal elements like murderers, rapists, embezzlers, tax avoiders, income tax fraudsters, corrupt bureaucrats and politicians and even potential terrorists can continue fearlessly, without  Aadhaar & biometrics to elude law enforcement.

Here are a few notable quotes from people opposing Aadhaar: 

  • “NPR & UID aiding Aliens” – Narendra Modi
  • “UID may aid Communal Targetting” – Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey, NAC Members
  • “Unique Identity Scheme will take away the Privacy of Indian Citizens” – Mathew Thomas
  • “UID Project Will Make Constitution Of India A Dead Document” – S.G.Vombatkere
  • “Aadhaar will institutionalise Poverty” – Ram Krishnaswamy
  • “UID project is full of ambiguity, confusions and suspicions, but no answers” – Usha Ramanathan
  • “Aadhaar is UIDAI’s unsolicited Testimonials to the Biometric Industry” – David Moss, UK
  • “It is a Bad Idea to Marry UID with NREGA” – Reetika Khera
  • “Nilekani’s reporting structure is unprecedented in history; he reports directly to the Prime Minister, thus bypassing all checks and balances in government” – Home Minister Chidambaram
  • “Aadhaar is not compulsory — it is just a voluntary “facility.” UIDAI’s concept note stresses that “enrolment will not be mandated.” But there is a catch: “… benefits and services that are linked to the UID will ensure demand for the number.” This is like selling bottled water in a village after poisoning the well, and claiming that people are buying water voluntarily. The next sentence is also ominous: “This will not, however, preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrollment.” – Jean Dreze, Visiting Prof of Economics, Uni of Allahabad, Ex-NAC Member
  • “Aadhaar was meant to deduplicate peoples ID’s and Aadhaar itself is a Duplicate of NPR and needs deduplication” – Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) headed by Secretary Sumit Bose.
  • “Nilekani’s technocratic obsession with gathering data is consistent with that of Bill Gates as though lack of information is what is causing world hunger” – Arundhati Roy
  • “Which is the bigger crime, a poor family double dipping on PDS to stay alive, or Govt wasting mega bucks on a white elephant called Aadhaar?” – Ram Krishnaswamy
  • “In Reality, Aadhaar intrudes into peoples privacy that is hidden under the guise of reaching out” – Srijit Misra
  • “Privacy is not something that people feel, except in its absence. Remove it and you destroy something at the heart of being human” –  Phil Booth, No2ID
  • “The UID is a corporate scam which funnels billions of dollars into the IT sector” – Arundhati Roy
  • “Aadhaar is Built on a Platform of Myths” – R. RamaKumar
  • “If our Government is selling the Country, then we should know at least who they are selling it to” – Veeresh Malik
  • “UID is a ‘Unique Indian Donkey’ that will collapse under the load” – Ram Krishnaswamy
  • The strongest voice opposing finger printing was raised by none other than Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation who said, “Let us begin by being clear… about General Smuts’ new law. All Indians must now be fingerprinted… like criminals. Men and women. No marriage other than a Christian marriage is considered valid. Under this act our wives and mothers are whores. And every man here is a bastard.”

But then, who in UPA II even remembers Mahatma Gandhi today, leave alone what he said in South Africa?


Ram Krishnaswamy is an IIT Madras alumnus living in Sydney who has opposed UID/Aadhaar since 2009 and hosts Aadhaar Articles Blog Spot ( 


22 Comments leave one →
  1. trojanwalls permalink
    April 15, 2013 9:54 AM

    This is a helluva confused article. I like some of the points made here – the fact that for the poor adhaar IS becoming mandatory simply because they need the benefits attached while for the middle and upper classes it’s okay to give it a miss if you have something to hide.
    But Nilekani isn’t an idiot. If he’d insisted on making it compulsory from the get go then the voices of dissent would have been much louder and stronger with the support of those who don’t want a light shown on their private dealings.
    Now if over time something that started out as voluntary gains momentum and popularity through the masses (because dear poster the poor do make up the majority of the state’s population) then the middle classes would get involved too (really, who doesn’t want LPG subsidies transferred to their savings account?) and as more organizations see the benefits of UID, someday – maybe seven, ten years from now – you’ll have the rich fingerprinted alongside the poor.
    Come one, guys. It’s a good idea but it wont be hurried. Give it time.

    • April 17, 2013 1:22 AM

      I like your optimism. If the rich and the corrupt want to hide, even in the long run I doubt corporations providing services will make this mandatory. Just like how they control state policies now. Thus, It has to come from the state – to show that there are no double standards.

    • March 26, 2014 11:11 PM

      I don’t want LPG subsidies. I was forced to get an Aadhaar number but never asked for a subsidy.

      • trojanwalls permalink
        April 1, 2014 9:33 PM

        But tp, we’ve all been enjoying LPG subsidies for decades before Aadhar ever came into being. We pay half the real price of the cylinders. All Aadhar does is instead of subsidizing at root, they ask us to pay the full amount and then deposit the money into the consumer’s bank account. This way, distributors can’t sell off extra cylinders at higher prices, making a profit over the government’s subsidization.

  2. April 15, 2013 12:54 PM

    Interesting questions raised. However, this is the probably the exact trap which is laid to trap activists and concerned people about the issues of Aadhar. If we realise the problems with it, it needs to be taken back and not implemented universally. Although I understand what exactly is the author trying to say – and I take these arguments well.
    The problem to ending chaos cannot be more chaos. The project is a result of maligned intentions of corporations and its ugly collusion with the state. After this realisation, making it universal formally will only justify the claims of the state to push similar things in the future. And the civil society would have then lost all legitimacy to do anything about it.

  3. April 16, 2013 3:37 AM

    The author opposes UID because it is not compulsory and lets the crooks get away without the need for registering for it? Or that he likes the privileges that these crooks and himself are enjoying currently?

  4. April 25, 2013 4:55 PM

    Aadhaar has been a dream project for the UPA government which it wants to use as their key to success in the forthcoming Lok Sabha Elections of 2014 similar to the program of MGNREGA program which they began before the 2009 General Elections. Besides their benefits associated with this scheme, the government has failed to handle such a huge masses of response from the people of the country and we often hear about irregularities in the Aadhar functioning. If the government really wants to help the people then it should make proper arrangements before initiating such type of project escpecially in the rural areas where 70% of country’s population resides and where the basic infrastructure is unavailable.

  5. Hari permalink
    August 20, 2013 10:30 AM

    All Indians should have an identity….official…If you live in India, utilize all its facilities , then the nation must know who are you and at least the Government should know what you are. Here all the government policies fail as it is not reaching to the needy and the deserving. If your identity is well aware of, the govt. can decide what you deserve. Food , wealth and all national products be distributed as per necessity only and to the deserving according to his need. A person earning 1 lakh per month need not be given that much as to another who earns 1000/- per month. To decide up on this and to share properly the system must know who these persons are and what are their capacities. Aadhar is only a primary step to it. It doe not prevent any body from any legally bind activities to earn and enjoy and live peacefully in our beloved India. Jai Hind.

  6. Ravi Shyam permalink
    September 3, 2013 9:32 PM

    Aadhaar-enabled Service Delivery (AeSD) thru Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) is a boon to the general public of India – the lower 90% of the pyramid. It is capable of eliminating Retail-Corruption by eliminating the Duplicate, Fake and Ineligible beneficiaries. Thus it can save public money from corruption to the order of trillion rupee per annum when applied to LPG, PDS Ration, Kerosene, Scholarships, Social Welfare Pensions (Old-age, widow), Health programs, Fertilizer subsidy etc. It is the most effective governance tool ever devised to prevent retail corruption since Independence. The reports in media slowly have started now on cost-benefits of Aadhaar i.e. savings from pilferage, leakage, access & options to poor etc. In one block of Rajasthan, 2/3rd of Kerosene was saved from fake beneficiary after Aadhaar-DBT was implemented. (see last para of online Economic Times 29-Aug-2013 url: That is the power of Aadhaar-DBT!
    The badly affected people (crooks, corrupts, insensitive to public woes) are very angry with AeSD and they desire to see it fail. However, Aadhaar enrollment (450 million till 15-Aug-2013) and its Applications i.e. AeSD have reached the Critical-Mass, thus have become irreversible by any pro-corruption force. Popularity of Aadhaar has been proven by 90-99% enrollment in Kerala, Goa, Delhi, Himachal, Sikkim, Tripura, Andhra etc. By April-2014, 600 million people i.e. half the population will have Aadhaar. Opponents of Aadhaar will quietly vanish thru back-door by Dec-2013 as it happened to the opponents of liberalization & computerization in the past.
    Using privacy card to stop Aadhaar is a lame excuse in Indian context. It reminds me of anti-progress protests against computerization of rail-ticket and banking 25 years ago – now we reap the benefits of anywhere-anytime ATM and rail ticket-booking. Criminals, corrupts & terrorists desire maximum privacy to avoid detection & tracking. Pure gold does not fear the flame! Half the nations of the world have National Identity of Residents – USA (SSN), UK, Israel, Pakistan etc.
    Now we have to devise some other effective tool to prevent Wholesale-Corruption in allocation of natural resources like Land, Spectrum (2G, 3G, 4G), Mining of Sand, Iron-ore, Coal-blocks etc.

  7. Anti Corruption permalink
    September 9, 2013 5:26 PM

    Let a Law be made so that any data collected for this purpose can be used only by the government for only the purpose for it needs to be utilized and no other purpose and let any person or entity transferring this data to any other person or entity be strictly punished for it, otherwise let this scheme be discarded.

  8. Ravi Shyam permalink
    September 12, 2013 1:05 PM

    The reason why Aadhaar enrollment is NOT compulsory are following:

    1. When we want to drive vehicle, we obtain Driver License, When we want to travel abroad we obtain Passport, When we want to cast vote we obtain Voter-Id. These are all need-based documents and are Not compulsory. Once we have obtained DL, it is not compulsory to drive everyday either.
    2. Aadhaar is need-based, Not compulsory. The 80% people of India, who have no Identity papers like Passport, DL can obtain Aadhaar to prove identity & avail benefits.
    3. A service provider e.g. LPG Companies are making it compulsory only for availing the subsidized LPG. One can continue to buy LPG without Aadhaar at full-rate, hence there is no compulsion. The Government will save more than $2 billion per annum from subsidy on fake LPG connections. (See the last para of online Economic Times 29-Aug-2013 url: More reports are on the way!
    4. Making an Identity compulsory causes more resistance. Hence Aadhaar is not compulsory in its own right.
    5. Only service providers can make it compulsory to provide a given service – like Traffic Police requires drivers to hold Driving License.
    6. Those who are averse to Identity documents with Numbers and biometrics – like Driving License, Aadhaar, Immigration & Visa of USA, UK etc. need not obtain it. Govt of India does not put anyone in jail if one does not want to enroll for Aadhaar. One can remain to be a free bird!

    • Singh permalink
      September 24, 2013 7:19 PM

      “one can remain free as a bird”, if by “free” you mean can’t get married or buy a house or for that matter obtain any government service like business or licence registration, then ironically, those who want to remain “free” would become the very class of people which you claim the scheme appeals to and assist. The aadhaar card has become mandatory in several states. But of course you knew that already.

      Identification by virtue is voluntary and the proof of citizenship, complete with “unique number” is the supreme of identification, accepted internationally. Politicians further ensure that the poor have voter cards. To avoid double taxation, and for several government services pan card is mandatory. So the identification argument holds no water.

      Western nations Citizen have opposed biometric cards. Even evil regimes would stay away from them. However the Indian political class, in cahoots with big industry have pushed through , outside of parliamentary law and judicial scrutiny, a scheme which is designed to further develop a nanny state and also enable corporations to claw billions of tax dollars.

      And to the article author- your argument lacks merit and your attempt to deceive the reader with your proposition is blatant. The civil rights activists whom you challenge won’t buy any of your lies. The government pushed through the uid scheme in spite of the bill being opposed in standing committee and which stood no chance in parliament and judicial review, solely because of the administrative nicely of introducing it as a purely “voluntary” scheme, allowing it to bypass parliament, the courts and give a free hand to facists and big industry. It needs parliamentary approval to be compulsory at the federal level. Making it compulsory is indeed the governments aspiration, enabled by service providers insisting on the same (with the centre washing its hands off the matter and courts being unable to intervene with lack of any legislation to review), leading to examples already existing of states making it mandatory for all services including marriage and property registration. Once everyone is registered (will happen soon), and everyone subservient to the system, it will become de facto compulsory (rather than de jure). You argument about thieves benefiting doesn’t stand given this, unless said thief is going to be a travelling renunciator. Your deceit is apparent and civil rights activists see through it.

      So i will go enjoy my “freedom” without the right to marry, own property, own business, open a bank account, receive any public service etc.

  9. Anti Corruption permalink
    October 9, 2013 10:55 AM

    Let none of the subsidized or non subsidized benefits be linked with the aadhar card. Let the aadhar card be used used only for identification and not for any other benefit or purpose.

    • March 26, 2014 11:13 PM

      Indians do not care for identity without any attendant benefit of identification.

  10. January 1, 2014 7:52 PM

    US has SSN number, its compulsory for all its citizen, but in india is optional and no parliamentary status. US govt safeguards its citizens SSN number but in india if you give all your personal details like iris scan, finger print and all the details there is fear that it can be sold to private company like googla by third person working in aadhar card process and procedure, which can in future will have all the indians horoscope without and privacy. We cannot trust this politicians and more so its very bad idea to get it. i can tell you a incident happened to me . once i was told to get voter id card when i went for voting the officer didnot allowed to vote, he told your name is not there in the list, so what is the use of voter id card its useless. its like blackmail to get all your details. worst idea came to politician mind. In future say 2025 your personal information is worth lakhs of rupee dont sell for cheap amount. think it over.

  11. September 8, 2014 2:48 AM

    I am genuinely grateful to the owner of this web page who has shared this great piece
    of writing at at this place.

  12. wolf permalink
    March 11, 2015 4:35 PM

    why on earth do i have to give you my finger print and my biometric reading. what are you? are you trying to steal our freedom and our privacy. if you want to give us a id why don’t you just do something like voter id and license without any fingerprints or biometric readings getting from us. you is a thief who is trying to steal our freedom and privacy.

  13. Kishore Ghosh permalink
    May 14, 2015 8:56 PM

    As we can voluntarily enroll for Aadhaar, there must be an option to de-register with Aadhaar if someone wishes to do so. Also in the absence of a law, solely Aadhaar based identification processes can be challenged in courts. I went to a bank a few days back and I learnt that if I had an Aadhaar card then that can be accepted and no other documents were necessary. This seemed to be ridiculous as no supporting documents are required to obtain an Adhaar card. Even foreigners can open bank accounts in India as they can easily get hold of a Aadhaar card.

  14. Ravi Shyam permalink
    April 20, 2016 5:34 PM

    Aadhaar bill has become the law in March-2016. Aadhaar count has crossed the Billion mark in April-2016.

    Now, now one can raise any finger.

    Let them go to forest or some island in the pacific ocean who want to remain “Free man/ woman”.


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