UIDAI is inefficient but will share information if they cooperate, Tribune reporter who broke Aadhaar story tells Firstpost

Chandigarh: On 4 January, a Chandigarh-based daily, The Tribune, carried a news story with the headline Rs 500, 10 minutes, and you have access to billion Aadhaar details. The story claimed that after paying the amount to an agent, the reporter got a login ID and password, using which — along with anybody's Aadhaar number — she could access all the personal details submitted by the person. Refuting the charges, the UIDAI insisted its data is secure and filed an FIR against the reporter, Rachna Khaira.

In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, Khaira said it was not fair to expect her to disclose more information as there are more Aadhaar-related stories in the offing.

She then added: "Let this particular story settle down. Ab UIDAI ko itne zyada dhakke bhi maarne ki zaroorat nahi hai na... Woh log inefficient hain toh ab inefficient logon ko, eh, buzurgon ko ghar se bahar thodi nikaal dete ho na. You, you give them, you make them understand. Toh woh thoda sa unko hum time dete hain. Aur agar woh cooperate karenge toh hum unke saath [information] share karenge. (Let this particular story settle down. There is no need to push UIDAI so much. They are inefficient, but you can't kick out the inefficient and the elderly out of the house, no. You try to make them understand. So we will give them a little time. And then if they cooperate, we will share the information with them)."

Khaira said that the best outcome of her story is that it has cleared the illusion of safety around people's private information submitted to the UIDAI. She said people ​​would be confused when they ​heard about data leaks and others losing money from their bank accounts. She said this confusion stands cleared now and people know that they need to take precautions.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

She said that the story was unplanned. "It was not a planned operation. Hamein information aayi thi. Hamne uspar act kiya. Aur jab hamne inspect karne ki koshish ki toh woh problem hamein pata chali. (It was not a planned operation. We got information and we acted on it. And when we tried to inspect, then we learnt about that problem.)"

When she pitched the story idea to her seniors at The Tribune, they had many questions, she told Firstpost. The story was extensively vetted, all claims were double-checked and only then was it published. She said The Tribune is firmly behind her and is taking care of her legal issues. She informed that the UIDAI had first reported the case to the Punjab police, who had come to their Jalandhar office for preliminary inquiry a day after the story was published.

She said that the reason the story is creating such a buzz is that it concerns everybody and not just a niche audience. She said The Tribune's editor-in-chief Harish Khare had told her that some stories are more than a mere journalistic experience but are a service to the nation. She feels that this is one such story and is the best one she has worked on.

Khaira had joined The Tribune as a staff correspondent in December 2013, after working there as a contributor for a few months. In 2016, she was promoted as senior staff correspondent. She has previously worked at the Delhi office of news agency Asian News International and with national daily The Times of India in Chandigarh.

Tribune responds to UIDAI

Responding to the UIDAI, Khare shot off a letter to the organisation's ADG, Chandigarh office on Monday. It reads: "The Tribune is a responsible newspaper and publishes news and views without any bias or prejudice of any kind. Regarding news reports being mentioned in your letter, we were so concerned with the sensitivity and importance of the matter that we disclosed our sources in the news item(s) itself so as to enable the authorities to look into the concerns immediately."

In the letter, Khare remarked that the UIDAI's stance — it said if the newspaper fails to respond to its letter, it would be inferred that it did not get access to any fingerprints and/or iris scan from the Aadhaar database — indicates that the matter is not being dealt with seriously. "We feel sorry that the authorities are unable to appreciate that a breach has taken place," the letter reads.

"Still, we are more than happy to provide you any such information and will assist UIDAI to maintain integrity of the Aadhaar data. For that purpose, we believe that it would be appropriate if a duly authorised person came over and interacted with us so that we can answer all queries and follow up questions, if any, in a comprehensive manner rather than entering into protracted correspondence in this matter [sic]."

The letter The Tribune sent to UIDAI. Image courtesy: 101Reporters

The letter The Tribune sent to UIDAI. Image courtesy: 101Reporters

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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2018 09:27:30 IST

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