The Congress on Sunday accused the NDA government of destroying the Aadhaar programme and called the FIR against The Tribune and its reporter "unfortunate".
Alleging that the government had "dictatorial" tenancies, Congress said that the NDA has been silencing every voice of dissent.
"It is acting like a dictatorship. Whenever intellectuals and the media tries to point out problems, the government files FIRs against them. This is the parochial mindset of government," Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza said.
Slamming the Narendra Modi government, Oza said,"Instead of helping the poor, it has become a tool of spying and surveillance."
"It was created to help the poor enjoy benefits of various government schemes," Oza said while criticising the present dispensation for trying to link everything to the Aadhaar programme.
The Congress also took potshots at the prime minister for changing his stance on the programme, digging out a 2014 tweet in which he brought up possible security issues with the biometric programme when Manmohan Singh was prime minister.
On Aadhaar, neither the Team that I met nor PM could answer my Qs on security threat it can pose. There is no vision, only political gimmick
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 8, 2014
"Four years later, he wants to link everything to Aadhaar. So there no security issues now?' Oza asked.
Claiming the government did not respect the privacy of Indians as it fought against making privacy a fundamental right, Congress also stressed privacy concerns surrounding Aadhaar.
"Privacy is an important issue. We have seen it on 4 May, 2017, when the Modi government had, on record, accepted data breach in the Aadhaar scheme. The Attorney-General, while defending the move to make Aadhaar mandatory for PAN cards, told the apex court that “one cannot have an absolute right over his or her body”. This uncovers the intent, intentions and intentionality of the Modi government with respect to sensitive issues like privacy," Congress said in a statement.
A senior official of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) earlier filed an FIR against The Tribune and its reporter Rachna Khaira for an article which reportedly exposed the ease with which anybody can steal Aadhaar-related data.
The accused were booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 419 (punishment for cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document). Charges were been registered under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act and Section 36/37 of the Aadhaar Act.
The Tribune investigation
The 3 January report claimed that it took just Rs 500 and 10 minutes for the newspaper to get an access through an "agent" to every detail of any individual submitted to the UIDAI, including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email.
The newspaper said it had paid another Rs 300 to an "agent", who provided "software" to facilitate the printing of the Aadhaar card after entering the Aadhaar number of any individual.
The Tribune also claimed to have found in its investigation that the racket may have started around six months ago when some anonymous groups were created on WhatsApp.
These groups targeted over three lakh village-level enterprise operators hired by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the Common Service Centres Scheme (CSCS) across India, offering them access to UIDAI data.
CSCS operators were initially entrusted with the task of making Aadhaar cards across the country but were withdrawn later. The service was restricted to post offices and designated banks to avoid any security breach in November last year.
UIDAI slams The Tribune for misreporting
A day after the report was published, the UIDAI issued a statement denying any breach or leak of Aadhaar data. "The Aadhaar data, including biometric information, is fully safe and secure," the authority said in a statement, calling the report in The Tribune "a case of misreporting".
"UIDAI assures that there has not been any Aadhaar data breach," the statement said, adding that the data was secure with a "robust uncompromised security".
The authority said it had given search facility for the purpose of grievance redressal to designated personnel and state government officials to help residents only by entering their 12-digit Aadhaar numbers.
The grievance redressal search facility, the statement said, "gives only limited access to name and other details and has no access to biometric details". It said the authority maintains complete log and traceability of its search facility and any misuse was traceable.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Jan 08, 2018 13:39 PM