Explained: The common complaints about Aadhaar, which CAG has now flagged in UIDAI audit

What is the News?

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has pulled up the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) over a range of issues related to the issuance of Aadhar Cards.

What are the issues highlighted by the CAG related to the issuance of Aadhar Cards? 
No assurance that all the Aadhaar holders are ‘Residents’ as defined in the Aadhaar Act

The Aadhaar Act stipulates that an individual should reside in India for a period of 182 days or more in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of application for being eligible to obtain an Aadhaar. In 2019, this condition was relaxed for non-resident Indians holding valid Indian Passport. 

However, UIDAI has not prescribed any specific proof/document or process for confirming whether an applicant has resided in India for the specified period and takes confirmation of the residential status through a casual self-declaration from the applicant.

Suggestion: UIDAI may prescribe a procedure and required documentation other than self-declaration, in order to confirm and authenticate the residence status of the applicants.

Duplication of Aadhar

The uniqueness of identity of the Applicant, established through a de-duplication process, is the most important feature of Aadhaar.

But in November 2019, it was seen that UIDAI had to cancel more than 4.75 lakh Aadhaar cards for being duplicates. There were instances of issues of Aadhaar with the same biometric data to different residents, indicating flaws in the de-duplication process and issues of Aadhaar cards on faulty biometrics and documents. 

Issuance of Aadhaar to Minor Children

Issue of Aadhaar numbers to minor children below the age of five, based on the biometrics of their parents without confirming the uniqueness of biometric identity, goes against the basic tenet of the Aadhaar Act. 

Hence, apart from being violative of the statutory provisions, the UIDAI has also incurred an avoidable expenditure of ₹310 Crore on the issue of Bal Aadhaars till 31 March 2019.

Suggestion: The UIDAI needs to review the issue of Aadhaar to minor children below five years and find alternate ways to establish their unique identity, especially since the Supreme Court has stated that no benefit will be denied to any child for want of Aadhaar document.

All Aadhaar numbers are not supported with actual documents containing personal information

According to the CAG, all the Aadhaar numbers stored in the UIDAI database were not supported with documents relating to the personal information of their holders and even after nearly ten years the UIDAI could not identify the exact extent of the mismatch.

Charging Fees for Voluntary Update

UIDAI appeared to have charged people for biometric updates when poor quality data was fed in during enrolment. UIDAI did not take responsibility for poor quality biometrics and put the onus on the resident and charged fees for it.

Suggestion: UIDAI may review charging of fees for the voluntary update of residents’ biometrics.

No Data Archiving Policy

UIDAI maintains one of the largest biometric databases in the world; but does not have a data archiving policy, which is considered to be a vital storage management best practice. 

No Proper Grievance Redressal Procedure

The process of capturing grievances/complaints have not been streamlined by UIDAI and does not display a clear picture for analysis.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: The common complaints about Aadhaar, which CAG has now flagged in UIDAI audit” published in Indian Express on 9th April 2022.

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