1.All that data that Aadhaar captures (The Hindu)

2.Indicators that matter (The Hindu)

1.All that data that Aadhaar captures (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that there is need to consider Aadhaar in the light of the privacy judgment. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • In the recent time Privacy has been a key focus in the debate on Aadhaar.  Privacy is being interpreted in different, equally valid, ways by different sets of people. Freedom of opinion and association; freedom of religion; the ability to make choices and decisions autonomously in society free of surrounding social pressure, including the right to vote all of these depend on the preservation of the “private sphere.” But the differences in interpretations are not always obvious to those who participate in the discussions.
  • With the recent Supreme Court direction that Privacy is a fundamental right, the Aadhaar’s public-relations machine into damage control mode. Though the government had been denied the right to privacy for years, but the government promptly has welcomed the judgment. The CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asserted that “The Aadhaar Act is based on the premise that privacy is a fundamental right and the judgment would not affect Aadhaar as the required safeguards were already in place.”

Major threat to the fundamental right to privacy

  • The common perception that the main privacy concern with Aadhaar is the confidentiality of the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR). This is misleading for two reasons- one is that the CIDR is not supposed to be inaccessible and on the contrary, the Aadhaar Act 2016 puts in place a framework for sharing most of the CIDR information. The second reason is that the biggest danger, in any case, lies elsewhere.
  • There are three different types of private information- biometric information, identity information and personal information. The first two are formally defined in the Aadhaar act, and protected to some extent. Aadhaar’s biggest threat to privacy, however, relates to the third type of information.
  • In the Aadhaar Act, biometric information essentially refers to photograph, fingerprints and iris scan, though it may also extend to “other biological attributes of an individual” specified by the UIDAI. The term “core biometric information” basically means biometric information minus photograph, but it can be modified once again at the discretion of the UIDAI.
  • Identity information has a wider scope. It includes biometric information but also a person’s Aadhaar number as well as the demographic characteristics that are collected at the time of Aadhaar enrolment, such as name, address, date of birth, phone number, and so on.
  • However the term “personal information” has not used in the Act, can be understood in a broader sense, which includes not only identity information but also other information about a person, for instance where she travels, whom she talks to on the phone, how much she earns, what she buys, her Internet browsing history, and so on.
  • This leads to an obvious concern that is confidentiality of whatever personal information an individual may not wish to be public or accessible to others. The Aadhaar Act puts in place some safeguards in this respect, but they are restricted to biometric and identity information.

Strongest safeguards

  • The act provide strong safeguard to relate to core biometric information. The part of the CIDR, where identity information is stored, is supposed to be inaccessible except for the purpose of biometric authentication. There is a view that, in practice, the biometric database is likely to be hacked sooner or later. Be that as it may, the UIDAI can at least be credited with trying to keep it safe, as it is bound to do under the Act.
  • Far from protecting your identity information, the Aadhaar Act puts in place a framework to share it with “requesting entities”. The core of this framework lies in Section 8 of the Act, which deals with authentication.
  • Section 8 underwent a radical change when the draft of the Act was revised. In the initial scheme of things, authentication involved nothing more than a Yes/No response to a query as to whether a person’s Aadhaar number matches her fingerprints. In the final version of the Act, however, authentication also involves a possible sharing of identity information with the requesting entity. The biometric information other than core biometric information (which means, as of now, photographs) can be shared with a requesting entity.
  • Though the Section 8, includes some safeguards against possible misuse of identity information. A requesting entity is supposed to use identity information only with your consent, and only for the purpose mentioned in the consent statement. But who reads the fine print of the terms and conditions before ticking or clicking a consent box?

Identity concern

  • The proliferation and possible misuse of identity information is only one of the privacy concerns associated with Aadhaar, and possibly not the main concern. A bigger danger is that Aadhaar is a tool of unprecedented power for mining and collating personal information. Further, there are few safeguards in the Aadhaar Act against this potential invasion of privacy.
  • For example producing your Aadhaar number (with or without biometric authentication) becomes mandatory for buying a railway ticket. With computerised railway counters the government will have all the details of your railway journeys, from birth onwards.  The government can do exactly what it likes with this personal information the Aadhaar Act gives you no protection, since this is not “identity information”.
  • If Aadhaar is made mandatory for SIM cards, the government will have access to your lifetime call records, and it will also be able to link your call records with your travel records. The chain, of course, can be extended to other “Aadhaar-enabled” databases accessible to the government from school records, income-tax records, pension records, and so on. Aadhaar enables the government to collect and collate all this personal information with virtually no restrictions.

Way ahead

  • The Aadhaar Act includes a blanket exemption from the safeguards applicable to biometric and identity information on “national security” grounds. Considering the elastic nature of the term, this effectively makes identity information accessible to the government without major restrictions.
  • We can conclude that Aadhaar is the anti-thesis of the right to privacy. There is need to amend the act as nothing in the Aadhaar Act prevents the government from using Aadhaar to link different databases, or from extracting personal information from these databases.

Question– With the recent directive of Supreme Court that Privacy is fundamental right, evaluate the privacy concern with mandatory Aadhaar provision for government services.

2.Indicators that matter (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of poor health care system in India and measures that can be learn from other countries .(GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has identified India’s poor health outcomes as one of our major developmental challenges. India is a laggard in health outcomes not just by OECD standards, but also by the standards of the developing world.
  • Recent deaths in Uttar Pradesh of more than 70 children in one hospital in Gorakhpur and 49 in Farrukhabad reflect the appalling state of public health in India. India’s public health care sector has been ailing for decades.

Analysis

  • According to the latest Global Burden of Disease Study, which ranks countries on the basis of a range of health indicators, India has the 154th rank, much below China, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
  • As per the constitutional provision ‘health’ is a State subject, that implying that the primary responsibility of providing quality health services to the people lies with the States. However States have been reducing their health-care spending efforts in relation to total government spending.  But the health has never been a political priority in the State.

For example

  • In 2013-14, the per capita public expenditure on health in U.P. was ₹452. Such low spending cannot be expected to deliver much. The number of primary health centres, the first point of contact for patients in the rural areas of U.P. went down from 3,808 in 2002 to 3,497 in 2015. The gravity of the situation is understood better when juxtapose this with the 25-30% increase in the State’s population during the same period. These statistics show that health has never been a political priority in the State.
  • Public expenditure on health show that the provisioning of curative care through hospitals received disproportionate policy significance, ignoring overwhelming evidence that it is preventive health care and public health actions that have brought down periodic episodes of infectious disease outbreaks or epidemics and lead to prolonging the lives of people significantly in industrialised nations and elsewhere.
  • Through the scientific discoveries, technological improvements which had occurred in the last century and government efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene, not only high and middle income countries but also many low income countries have successfully controlled infectious diseases.
  • Today, in those countries, very few parents ever experience the death of a child unlike in most Indian States where people live with the misery of seeing some of their children die due to preventable causes. The government’s lack of understanding of the importance of public health has played the most important part in U.P.’s health predicament.

Global scenario

  • The National Health Service, a publicly funded health-care system in the U.K. set up in 1948. Now the government health spending accounts for 80-90% of total health expenditure in most countries of the European Union and North America; public expenditure contributes to less than 30% of the total health expenditure in India.
  • Every year, around 60 million people become impoverished through paying health-care bills in India. Worse, more than a fifth of people do not seek health care, despite being unwell, because of their inability to pay for it.
  • The experience from other nations that have done relatively well in health suggests that political commitment to health is a prerequisite for improving the health scenario of any country. Thailand, Cuba or Costa Rica has achieved universal health care, although they have taken different routes.
  • While Thailand may not be the best example to follow but it has some important lessons for India. For instance, Thailand has enacted a law to make quality health care a constitutionally guaranteed right. Unlike in India, where the Right to Education Act has been reduced to mere rhetoric, Thailand has undertaken structural reforms in the health sector to achieve the goals stated in the Health Act.
  • For years the Thai government had channelized a greater amount of public resources to the rural areas than to in the urban places. Like Thailand, China, Ghana and other many low and middle income countries have also in recent years steadfastly augmented the public health-care system’s capacity through increased funding.
  • Cuba did the same thing many decades ago. Health care is a right there and the government assumes the fiscal and administrative responsibility of ensuring access to free health care.

Way forward

  • Health needs to be integrated as a pillar of development and it must be recognised as a public good. Apart from the availability of resources in health, the government’s approach towards health needs to be radically changed.
  • The government needs to push healthcare to the top of its agenda and constantly work to have the policies, strategies and regulation that are on par with the developed healthcare systems. It needs to empower and expand the role of the Medical Council to act as an overall ensure of good practice by members of medical profession and to act firmly against those who are outside the framework of expected professional and behavioural standards.
  • It also needs to strengthen and expand the role of hospital accrediting agencies and make compliance mandatory for all healthcare organisations. It needs to promote the development of specialist medical bodies that govern and oversee the practice of members of their specialty and issue periodic guidelines and clinical pathways to attain uniform practice.

Question– The recent deaths of more than 150 children in two hospitals, both in Uttar Pradesh reflects the appalling state of public health in India. Discuss the poor health management system in India; also suggest measures to improve the grim situation.