The Big Story: Leaking rights

Nandan Nilekani, the first chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, has consistently maintained that there are no security flaws in the system that administers Aadhaar – the 12-digit identification number that the Indian government wants all residents to obtain. Over the last few months, the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre has embarked on a massive expansion of the use of Aadhaar, virtually making possession of the number compulsory to access a variety of government services. It even went to the extent of making Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns.

This is in direct violation of Supreme Court directives, which has said that possessing an Aadhaar could not be made a condition for Indians to receive social welfare benefits.

As this debate proceeds, the country on Monday woke up to the news of yet another major leak of Aadhaar data. The Hindustan Times reported that the Jharkhand Directorate of Social Security published the personal information of about 1.4 million people on its website: names, Aadhaar numbers and bank account details. This was perhaps one of the largest information leaks in recent times, adding to this long list of Aadhaar data breaches.

The scale of Jharkhand Aadhaar leaks is a reminder of the vulnerabilities of the digital security system around the scheme and how lightly the government takes concerns about privacy. While Nilekani has argued that the Unique Identification Authority of India’s systems are sound, what has been clearly underplayed is the vulnerability of the data stored by government offices across the country.

By linking Aadhaar to a wide variety of government schemes, the Centre has made it necessary for small goverment offices across the country to store such data, making it easier for hackers to access. Going by the reaction of officials in Jharkhand, who had no clue how the personal data of millions of people was published, it is clear that digital security literacy among government officials is weak. The Aadhaar law prohibits publishing of such data and prescribes penal action for violations. Yet, such data has been making its way to public forums with alarming regularity.

This is why it is necessary for the Supreme Court, before which the constitutional validity of Aadhaar has been challenged, to hear cases connected to the scheme on an urgent basis. The court in March declined to entertain requests for a early hearing of these petitions, though it will on Wednesday take up challenges against making Aadhaar compulsory for filing income tax returns and getting Permanent Account Numbers.

The Supreme Court not only has the duty to come to the rescue of the petitioners, but also of the millions of Indians who do not have the information or the means to enforce their rights before the country’s highest court. The least that can be done at the moment is to stop the rapid expansion of the use of Aadhaar till concerns over security are reviewed and corrected.

The Big Scroll

  • Aadhaar data is shrouded in mystery and there is no way to know if they are secure, reports Anumeha Yadav. 
  • UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani says Aadhaar is being demonised because it is transparent. 


  1. In The Hindu, Neera Chandhoke writes on how vigilantism has spilled over from the sphere of arts to everyday lives of people, making a collective challenge a necessity. 
  2. Apoorva Javadekar in the Mint on why it is necessary for India to rise in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings. 
  3. In the Indian Express, Ashok Vajpeyi says plurality of the Hindu tradition has come under attack in recent times as Hindutva tries to get more assertive. 


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