Indian society with all its complex variation of lived realities will be excel sheeted into a sanitized, digitized, very middleclass, database version through the UID number. How many Indians deviate from this ‘normal’ table should be the concern of this agency (UIDA). For it has the task of assigning citizenship status to ALL Indians. And let me not forget to add, at the cost of $40 billion.
Kuffir asked here, will the UID number make the state know that I exist?
I added to this question: If I exist, am I safe?
These are the core deliverables of a citizenship identification program from the point of view of the individual citizen.
Now, please watch this documentary for one group of Indians who deviate from the prescribed forms of identification parameters with respect to the data elements. The required data elements to be filled out to obtain UID numbers, are given in the table below.
These were female children abducted from far off places and sold into the sex trade. At this point it is not clear to me how this group will be included into the UID program without ambiguity. That is, how will it serve the primary question -do I exist- for this group of Indian women?
Will the state apparatus go to them and fill out the data elements, if so, how is it going to do it? Use the police, NGO, activists network? How long will this take?
Or will these young women self identify to gain the benefits of UID number, that is a beginning of sorts for better services and rights? If either of these does happen, will their digitized information be safe? What are the safeguards for this information from becoming vulnerable to more agencies in addition to the exploitative ones that these women are already exposed to? That is, if I exist now as a number with all my personal details filled out, where I live, what I work as, etc. visible in the card/database, am I safe or is it safe?
See how such a simple data filling exercise falls apart in this specific instance. The ? mark against the data element refers to data that is not likely to be verifiable and + sign indicates those that can be.
Page. 18. 5.5 Person identification data elements.
Personal identification number……..?????……….
Personal name in English ………….. ?
Father’s identification number ……………..?
Mother’s identification number ………………?
Mother’s name ……………..?
Spouse’s identification number …………….?
Spouse’s name ……………..?
Gender identification code : ….. …… +
Status in family –Head of family/not head of family…………?
POB (place of birth)…………..?
Premise Address …………….?
Photo. …….. +
Finger print…….. +
Visual identification mark……… +
Current marital status……….?
Of the 24 plus data elements, 7 data elements can be filled unambiguously either by the state or by the individual.
All other elements, by their very nature for this specific group of women are not available as reliable data.
The name, date of birth, place of birth, fathers name and mothers name if known would and should have been used to relocate the girls back to their families.
Will the agencies record their information in the absence of documentary evidence?
Study these specific dataelements in the context of these women:
Occupation: This data element has already been finalized and codes have been assigned for the UID for most jobs. However, sex worker unions have been waging a losing battle to have this profession legalized. So what is going to be filled here?
Address: The documentary gives visual proof of the kind of temporary hovels they are likely to reside in. Will it be recognized?
Relationship to head of the family: Who will that be? The pimp, the brothel owner?
Marital status: What?
Of the data elements that can be filled; gender, photo, fingerprint, physical identification marks and signature are actually the biometric data, literally proof that a person is alive, nothing more. And this is the only data that is going to be available for a large number of Indians who find themselves as stateless trafficked humans involved in slave labour. For those who would like to say that these women and men are miniscule percentage of the population, I would like to remind them that they are also paying for this mammoth project. The tax that they pay on salt, dhal, clothes contribute to the funding of this project. So kindly hold that line.
On a personal note, I would also like to reawaken the deadened empathy of such argument profferers –these girls/women were beloved children of parents, they are Indian daughters, their rights are not be relegated to some arbitrary or representative numbers of exploitation/trade as against any other larger or smaller numbers of categorized Indians.
Since the data elements are designed for the imagined ideal Indian, the data can be filled quite easily by the middleclass, with ‘normal’ families with access to institutions such as education, ‘respectable’ employment and marriage. So, for the already citizenship-rights accessing Indians, this is indeed a better system and seems like the best solution for the tiresome multiple identification systems. The -am I safe question- for this class has more to do with credit or identity thefts, which is a significant valid concern. However it becomes even more worrisome, for the marginalized whose meager savings/earnings are also susceptible to the same fears. They have nothing else to fall back on.
Do I exist? Will remain the basic question, while the am I safe questions will immediately materialize as soon the system recognizes the existence of the marginalized, and be ever ready to derail them further away from seeking their aspirations, without built-in protections especially designed for them.
I hope to elaborate on the individual marginalized safety questions arising out of digitization, and reflect on their group/caste/geography, then, dwell on the bigger concerns of safety of such citizen’s information. While all the time never being sure of what specific benefits are really gained for the marginalized by the UID. Whereas for the IT component of middleclass Indians there is an immediate and definite benefit in terms of jobs and unending contracts.
Until the activists and civil liberties groups have clear cut answers from the UIDA as to how the marginalized are going to be included in this system and provided safety, the UID program has to be seen as the BPO/IT industry’s very smart switching of ‘outsourcing’ from other countries to making the government of India and its citizens its largest ‘insourced’ assignment.