The Supreme Court Friday asked all states and union territories to “forthwith” set up three types of statutory bodies in all districts, as mandated by a 2000 central law for the welfare of juveniles and children in the country. Two days after ordering Delhi government to establish night shelters for thousand of the capital’s homeless, a bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice A.K. Patnaik directed all states to set up statutory bodies under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, within six weeks.
“It has become imperative to direct all the states to implement the provisions of the law forthwith and establish Juvenile Justice Board, Child Welfare Committee and special juvenile policing units within 6 weeks from today,” the bench ordered.On a suggestion by Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, the bench also deputed the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights as the nodal agency to supervise the implementation of the apex court order.The three statutory bodies that the bench ordered state governments to set up in all districts as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act are: Juvenile Justice Board – a court to try juvenile delinquents, Child Welfare Committees (CWC), and the special police units to handle the cases related to juveniles.The bench gave the order while hearing a 2006 lawsuit by a civil society organisation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), which sought implementation of the various provisions of theJuvenile Justice Act, 2000.The bench gave the order as senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the BBA, told the court that various key provisions of the law remain unimplemented till date despite lapse of nearly a decade after the central legislation was enacted.During the hearing, the bench singled out poverty as the reason why the children keep returning to workplaces, including the hazardous ones, despite ban on child labour.Citing the example of Brazil, Chile and various Latin American countries, the bench observed that child labour was not unique to India and wanted the government to learn from Brazilian experience, where the government would give some financial incentives to the poor parents of the children withdrawn from workplaces and sent to schools.
We at Shakti Vahini and as Activist working on Child Rights term this order as an important Land Mark in the cause for proper laws on Child Protection.
Lola, 22, is a tall girl with high, thin eyebrows on a slender face. Her features are sharp but her eyes are uninterested, fixed at a painting on the wall of the coffee shop, as she tries hard to explain, in broken English, why she is in India. Clad in a too-tight pink sweatshirt, faded cream shorts and shiny red boots, her right hand bearing a cocktail ring which she keeps twisting nervously, her blue nail varnish chipped, she seems a far cry from her alluring nocturnal avatar as one of the Capital’s high-priced prostitutes. She speaks of how she came to work here two-and-a-half months ago. Her boyfriend TC, not Tom Cruise, she clarifies, momentarily showing signs of life, joined her last month. Both are clear about what they want from their lives–enough money to buy a house in Tashkent, their hometown in Uzbekistan.
One of five siblings who grew up in poverty, Lola’s mother is dead and her father was abusive. For her it’s just another job. There are no regrets. “It was TC who did all the running around for me, got my papers done and put me on a flight to Delhi,” she says.
Lola is not alone. She is part of a growing army of fair-skinned prostitutes, about 3,000 of them in the Capital and about the same number in the other parts of the country. They are from Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Kyrgyzstan, all of which are part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Replacing the earlier favourites, imports from Nepal, and charging 40 per cent more than Indian prostitutes, they are changing the rules of the game, feeding on the Indian fascination for white skin and the greater openness with which they can promote their sexual favours, through classified advertisements in newspapers and professionally-designed websites.
That the fascination for white skin is transnational is evident from the string of recent arrests. Last year, on December 10, a Delhi-based hotel manager, Shanker Mishra, was arrested in Rajkot along with an Uzbek prostitute in her late 20s, Ragini, a native of Tashkent. Initial investigations revealed that Mishra would provide women to cash-rich traders and garment exporters in Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Indore.
A little earlier, on October 30, another sex racket was busted in Mahipalpur, Delhi, where three women of CIS origin, Aslefya, 23, Sonya, 25, and Roma, 27, were arrested following a scuffle between a few pimps and locals in front of a guesthouse, 365 Inn.
In July, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police arrested two CIS prostitutes when a decoy customer was sent to strike a deal with them. The pimp, Goldy, came with the two foreign women in a car. They were here on a six-month tourist visa and had been in the Gulf before coming to India; with their stay here governed by a Rs 1.5 lakh contract for each girl for one month. The women will be deported soon.
But it’s quite likely they will be back, admits Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime, Mumbai, Rakesh Maria. “The prostitution racket involving CIS women is very well organised. The Indian pimps are in close touch with their counterparts in Dubai and CIS countries,” he says. It’s the culmination of events that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union and gained momentum with the entry of young CIS women into Dubai, transforming it into a major centre of prostitution.
According to an article in The New Yorker in 2008, an “almost perfect recipe: mass immigration, mass transience, a tremendous concentration of money and anonymity, and a robust demand for labour”. But a crackdown in Dubai in December 2007 when 240 people were arrested and in May last year when 2,713 prostitutes were detained as well as the deportation of 228 Uzbek women from Thailand recently, ensured that many women moved south, a process hastened by the meltdown.
“The odds were against staying in Dubai,” says Nagina, a 27-year-old Muslim from Samarkand who was in Dubai till a month ago. She escaped the police but many of her friends are in jail for illegally entering the country on false passports. She doesn’t like to go to a bar to meet a client as “it is against my religion”. But prostitution? “They need our services and we provide it,” she says. Or take Roma, a 25-year-old from Karshi, Uzbekistan, who ran away from a violent father when she was 17. She was sucked into prostitution and sent to Dubai where her travel documents were confiscated. She is now a veteran with seven years of experience and this is her third stay in India. She lives in a three-storey flat in Delhi, atop a spiral staircase. It’s a big living room with bare orange walls, a dressing table with lights and a smorgasbord of cosmetics. As she settles down in a couch to talk, the only sign of her profession is a roommate who lies huddled in the bedroom next door, sleeping in mid-afternoon, working off the effects of a late night. As she flicks the ash from her cigarette, Roma says, “Only the best survive. The pressure to do well is so high. I learned English and have been to the US and Europe. I am okay with this life.”
As the hunting ground shifts from Dubai, the CIS women, often referred to as “night butterflies”, find India easier to work in. The classified advertisements in newspapers are easy to spot, printed by the dozens every day, five lines each costing Rs 1,800, giving mobile numbers, the option of paying by credit card and dropping cryptic hints of “body massage” assuring “full satisfaction”. Translate what that means: accompanying clients on long drives, having sex with them during the lunch hour in pimp hideouts around commercial hubs or in designated safehouses, and playing host at ‘stag’ parties where they serve alcohol and food skimpily dressed. All this for prices ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 30,000 depending on the duration.
It’s difficult to miss them, whether it is five-star hotel lobbies, elite clubs or farmhouses. They come here on tourist visas for three to six months and stay with ‘aunties’, women from CIS countries, who act as mediators between agents in home countries and pimps in India. The women are paid on a daily basis.
In Delhi, for example, over 150 Indian pimps host them and some of them have four to five CIS women on their payroll. The pimps pocket the money from clients, as payment for their upkeep as well as promotion. Call at any of the numbers advertised in the newspapers and they are quite blunt. “She will do all you want,” says the male voice at the other end. “Trained handling” means the client will relive his “wildest fantasies”. And when they say “full satisfaction guaranteed”, they mean “the girl will do whatever the clients wants, in the way they want, with great ability”. Some even promise to refresh clients with world class ‘blwoiob’ (blowjob) ‘ser'(vice), the misspelling deliberate to avoid trouble.
Some get poetic, luring clients with phrases such as “indulge yourself in the most electrifying experience of your lifetime with our bewitching masseuses” or proclaiming that carnal pleasures can be sublime, “where mind and soul entwine together in heights of pleasure”. So says a classified ad aimed at older customers. The idea is all are welcome, from the cash-rich entrepreneur to the high performing salesman, who gets sex as a bonus.
There is an even easier option, the Internet. Google ‘escort service’ and the name of the city where you intend to access the services, and voila, the choices pop up faster than Roger Federer’s serves. Professionally designed websites offer a host of services and a detailed rate list. Again, all it requires is a call to the given number, the time of requirement, and the specific service.
“Whether for pleasure trips, business occasions, corporate events, functions or dinner dates”, “especially handpicked to provide the highest level of service possible with professionalism, integrity and discretion assured at all times for the discerning gentlemen,” declares one website. Clients can book their services from anywhere in the world, can even outsource the planning of a fun-filled holiday to them. Payment is to be made in advance and clients are given the convenient option of paying by credit card.
Declares one website, “For gentlemen who would want to move beyond the confines of the hourly session, I offer these exclusive getaway packages,” to the scenic towns of Nainital and Shimla in summers and to regal Jaipur and Agra in winters. Yet another tells its prospective customers, “My favourite pastime in the field of the adult industry, always has been related to couples, including lesbian or bisexual female couples and groups of people.”
Their skin colour is their biggest selling point. “Sex with light-skinned women is aspirational,” says Pramada Menon, a Delhi-based gender activist. The CIS women agree. “Indians are so conscious of their colour and ours,” says Sarah, 27, from Tashkent, who has been here now for five months on a tourist visa. So much so that Indian women find it difficult to counter the ‘white cult’ that is taking over the premium flesh trade. Indian women have to be hard-sold. So if it’s an Indian woman, the advertisement reads: she is a ‘Punjabi’ (read intense and fair), ‘model’ (slim and beautiful), ‘airhostess’ (suave and smart), ‘hygienic’ (clean), ‘broadminded’ and ‘sober’. Broadminded assures clients that the women will play out their fantasies, while ‘sober’ indicates that they will be professional about it.
“East European girls have a different look and they are exotic for Indians as much as Delhi girls are unusual for Americans,” that’s a recorded voice playing on Vivek’s phone–he operates in an upmartket neighbourhood of the Capital and has four CIS women on his roster. “Most of our clients have gained money recently and want new girls every time,” he adds.
CIS women also offer anonymity. “For our older, wealthier and regular customers, it is not about sex but courtship,” says Feruza, 32, an Uzbek woman. “They want somebody to give them an honest hearing and like the way we pamper them. Language is an issue but we can talk them into relaxation. They like that they are in command and that actually helps them surrender to us,” she says. Ask Nitin, who runs a computer hardware business at a commercial complex in Delhi. He is in his mid-30s and is married with children. For him, the once-a-week sexcapade is an addiction he cannot do without.
“These women have an element of professional detachment. They are here for a few months and you don’t know whether you will ever see them again. They are not interested in you beyond the task well done,” he says, comparing them with their Indian counterparts. “But the Indians want your number. They give theirs, want to know what I do and how much I earn. Then they go on about how they belong to a good family too but have been forced into prostitution by some compelling circumstances. That is so irritating.”
Shrugs Shruti, a 19-year-old college girl who doubles as a call girl and is on the roster of two pimps in Delhi, “If Indian men are looking for white women for their novelty, white men are interested in us. They give us generous tips.” But why do white women attract so many repeat customers? “We cannot do things that white women do with Indian men,” says Shruti huffily.
CIS women dress well, wear immaculate make-up and carry the best accessories. They also play nice enough to have some men in their thrall. Roma gives the example of a 35-year-old married businessman, who offered to marry her. When she refused, he would insist only on her, paying extra for her services. “Aunty wanted me to meet him more often as money was coming thick and fast, but I stopped because he was getting emotional about the whole affair,” she says, adding on second thoughts, “but it is not a bad idea to get married after all.”
The ‘aunties’ are the key to the business. Usually heavily-built, manicured, made-up, chain-smokers, they pronounce their verdict with the authority borne of years of handling pimps, visa agents and police officials. “I tell my girls to come back if the clients get rough. They can call me any time even when they are with the clients. If they don’t like something, they can stop right there,” says one aunty. Four of them have formidable reputations. They have their areas of domination but their areas of operation overlap.
With names like Svetlana, Diana, Nafisa and Sweta, these aunties have never been prostitutes themselves but are cashing in on their strong Indian connections. The fathers of two aunties were diplomats stationed in India 20 years ago; another has a KGB background. For them, it’s not a racket but a business. Says an aunty, dressed in a long black skirt, a thick bead necklace nestling in the V of a cleavage-popping white T-shirt, “More then 20,000 girls have come and gone from India in several lots over the past two years. Most were from CIS countries and have done well for themselves.” The numbers are lower than in the UAE and Dubai, she adds.
These aunties are careful and so are the women. Unlike their Indian counterparts, they always carry a pack of flavoured condoms. Cleanliness is an issue and they insist that clients take a shower before going to bed with them. They have a dress code for bed too: red and black lingerie from the best brands. Sometimes the aunties insist on sending Indian prostitutes first. Only when she gives an all-clear signal is the client allowed to sleep with a white woman.
In order not to attract undue attention, only two girls are lodged in one flat each in areas close to busy neighbourhoods. They wear Fabindia clothes by day, have a fetish for leather garments at night and sport dark eyeliner at all times. “That’s our fashion statement,” says Bessica, 27. The mother of two has been in India for four months after her jobless husband persuaded her to come here. “I was in the UAE and Dubai before I came to India. The girls of my generation do feel the pangs. We are spiritually dead,” she says.
Most of the women come directly to aunties to pay off loans their family took back home. “It is according to an informal contract between the family and the agent back home where the girls are required to stay overseas for three to six months to pay off their debt by making themselves available for prostitution,” says Mashhura, 28, who belongs to Buxoro in Uzbekistan. Some come back to make money for themselves and get in touch with Indian pimps like Vivek who maintains four such ‘freelancers’ and pays each Rs 10,000 per day for their period of stay. They sometimes end up working 12 hours a day, meeting six different clients, as pimps make Rs 35,000 a day, which includes the police cut, their stay and other expenses.
Rajiv, 30, a pimp in Delhi, has six such women in his list. He calls prospective clients to his home and gives them one of his rooms. His wife, a tall woman in a salwar-kameez, who listens to him negotiating from behind the curtain of the living room and often walks out to tell the client sternly, “the price is fixed.”
The number of CIS-origin prostitutes in India is growing. Four hundred prostitutes are expected to arrive in the Capital during the Commonwealth Games to be held later in the year. “We know there will be great demand for women then and special arrangements are being made, like renting safehouses. Some Indian pimps are even buying flats,” says Avita, 30, who came here with her cousin from Tashkent.
Insiders also say that some girls are brought to India as part of dance troupes. These women perform group dances in revealing clothes, mostly at private parties. According to Rishikant, a 32-year-old activist who works for the NGO, Shakti Vahini, and has rescued more than 1,000 girls in the last decade from prostitution, “Their number has increased significantly in the last one-and-a-half years.” He explains that the police are aware of the problem but can do little as senior officers are involved.
India’s anti-trafficking law, the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls (Amendment) Act (SITA), 1978, aims at combating the commercialisation of the flesh trade (brothels, prostitution rings and pimping). Prostitution is not illegal. But in practice, SITA is not commonly used; instead the Indian Penal Code is deployed to charge sex workers with crimes such as public indecency or public nuisance, punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine or both. If the sex worker is a minor, the client may get a sentence of seven to 10 years. But, given the overt manner in which the flesh trade operates, it cannot happen without the support of the police. Former police officer Kiran Bedi calls it the “collective failure of the whole criminal judicial system.”
Failure or not, the women don’t mind. “We get to travel, stay in new places and make friends. Yes, the money is good. But I like it here as well,” says Kate, 27, who was presented as a model to an exporter in Delhi with whom she would be travelling to Goa. She arrived in India about a month-and-a-half ago and has already been with 50 men. As she leaves, dressed in tight jeans and a brown psychedelic top under a black leather jacket, a white taxi waiting outside to take her to her 51st client, she shrugs her shoulders.
“I was deported from Israel last year. The next few days will be tricky. It’s Republic Day and security is tight.” It’s one of the perils of her profession. But one she carries off as easily as the Christian Louboutin high heels she bought online last year. It’s price she extracts for the pleasure she provides.
The cost of fantasy
CIS girls now dominate the high-end sex market offering sexual pleasure as leisureSERVICES TIME IN HOURSRATE IN RUPEES/per head One trip (sexual intercourse) Two 8,000 Two trips Two 10,000 Two trips Four 15,000 Unlimited trips Eight or overnight 25,000 Orgy (at least one girl per person) Eight or overnight 25,000 Escort service (travel outstation with the client, all expenses are met) Per day 25,000 Play hostess at a stag party Four hours 15,000 Posing as nude model for photography and sketching One hour 5,000 Payment is in advance/all credit cards accepted, cash is preferred. The websites guarantee confidentiality.
Inside the new trade
Getting a light-skinned prostitute is rather easy. All one has to do is call one of the numbers flashed in the two dozen-odd difficult-to-ignore massage advertisements in the classified pages of leading dailies. The sales pitch starts as soon as the ad is mentioned. Then there’s the Net, where a search for ‘escort service’ with the city name yields pages of results.
Most of the women come as tourists from the impoverished republics of the former Soviet Union, particularly Uzbekistan. Some are coerced while others get into this business voluntarily.
The so-called ‘aunties’, CIS women who have been illegally living in India for several years, act as the interface between the women and local pimps. The aunties are local agents of a mafia back home and share up to 50 per cent of the profits.
Most prostitutes are not paid; they serve ‘aunties’ under informal contracts that pay off loans taken back home by their families in return for services provided here. The contracts run for three to six months, during which up to a third of a prostitute’s earnings go repay family loans.
Lured by big money, some women come back as ‘freelancers’. They then stay with an Indian pimp, who sometimes helps them get a visa. They also pay these women a daily fee which is usually between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000. Most women reinvest their earnings to make a profit; exporting leather garments is a favoured avenue.
The pimps also make money by organising rooms for clients. Five-star hotels, farmhouses and guesthouses are hotspots, with smaller establishments bending rules to ensure anonymity. Official addresses are avoided.
Some women aren’t prostitutes and others aren’t just that. As part of dancing troupes, they are called ‘belly dancers’ or ‘item girls’ and serve as hostesses and showgirls at parties.
Lax visa rules make for a thriving sex trade. Joint Commissioner of Police,Crime,Mumbai, Rakesh Maria says, “The pimps in India, Dubai and CIS countries work in close coordination.” A secret report of the NSA had expressed concern over foreigners buying land illegally. Others have established guesthouses and restaurants.
Only half a dozen arrests were made last year; there were no convictions. According to the law, soliciting or encouraging the exchange of sexual services for money is a sex crime and not prostitution. Sometimes these women are deported, but most of them come back.
The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls (Amendment) Act, 1978, is toothless. Most arrested women get bail as soliciting is difficult to prove. This prompted the Supreme Court last month to ask the government to legalise prostitution, on a PIL filed by an NGO called the Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
The UIDAI – evolving an approach to identity The Government of India undertook an effort to provide a clear identity to residents first in 1993, with the issue of photo identity cards by the Election Commission. Subsequently in 2003, the Indian Government approved the Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC). The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was established in February 2009, attached to the Planning Commission. The purpose of the UIDAI is to issue a unique identification number (UID) to all Indian residents that is (a) robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and (b) can be verified and authenticated in an easy, costeffective way. The UIDAI’s approach will keep in mind the learnings from the government’s previous efforts at issuing identity.
The UIDAI will be created as a statutory body under a separate legislation to fulfill its objectives. The law will also stipulate rules, regulations, processes and protocols to be followed by different agencies partnering with the Authority in issuing and verifying unique identity numbers.
Features of the UIDAI model
The UID number will only provide identity: The UIDAI’s purview will be limited to the issue of unique identification numbers linked to a person’s demographic and biometric information. The UID number will only guarantee identity, not rights, benefits or entitlements.
The UID will prove identity, not citizenship: All residents in the country can be issued a unique ID. The UID is proof of identity and does not confer citizenship.
A pro-poor approach: The UIDAI envisions full enrolment of residents, with a focus on enrolling India’s poor and underprivileged communities. The Registrars that the Authority plans to partner with in its first phase – the NREGA, RSBY, and PDS – will help bring large numbers of the poor and underprivileged into the UID system. The UID method of authentication will also improve service delivery for the poor.
Enrolment of residents with proper verification: Existing identity databases in India are fraught with problems of fraud and duplicate/ghost beneficiaries. To prevent this from seeping into the UIDAI database, the Authority plans to enrol residents into its database with proper verification of their demographic and biometric information. This will ensure that the data collected is clean from the start of the program. However, much of the poor and underserved population lack identity documents, and the UID may be the first form of identification they have access to. The Authority will ensure that the Know Your Resident (KYR) standards don’t become a barrier for enrolling the poor, and will devise suitable procedures to ensure their inclusion without compromising the integrity of the data.
A partnership model: The UIDAI approach leverages the existing infrastructure of government and private agencies across India. The UIDAI will be the regulatory authority managing a Central ID Data Repository (CIDR), which will issue UID numbers, update resident information, and authenticate the identity of residents as required. In addition, the Authority will partner with agencies such as central and state departments and private sector agencies who will be ‘Registrars’ for the UIDAI. Registrars will process UID applications, and connect to the CIDR to de-duplicate resident information and receive UID numbers. These Registrars can either be enrollers, or will appoint agencies as enrollers, who will interface with people seeking UID numbers. The Authority will also partner with service providers for authentication.
The UIDAI will emphasize a flexible model for Registrars: The Registrars will retain significant flexibility in their processes, including issuing cards, pricing, expanding KYR (Know Your Resident) verification, collecting demographic data on residents for their specific requirements, and in authentication. The UIDAI will provide standards to enable Registrars maintain uniformity in collecting certain demographic and biometric information, and in basic KYR. These standards will be finalized by the KYR and biometric committees the Authority constitutes.
Enrolment will not be mandated: The UIDAI approach will be a demand-driven one, where the benefits and services that are linked to the UID will ensure demand for the number. This will not however, preclude governments or Registrars from mandating enrolment. The UIDAI will issue a number, not a card: The Authority’s role is limited to issuing the number. This number may be printed on the document/card that is issued by the Registrar.
The number will not contain intelligence: Loading intelligence into identity numbers makes them susceptible to fraud and theft. The UID will be a random number.
The Authority will only collect basic information on the resident:
The UIDAI may seek the following demographic and biometric information in order to issue a UID number: Name
Date of birth
Father’s UID number (optional for adult residents)
Mother’s UID number (optional for adult residents)
Address (Permanent and Present)
Process to ensure no duplicates: Registrars will send the applicant’s data to the CIDR for deduplication. The CIDR will perform a search on key demographic fields and on the biometrics for each new enrolment, to ensure that no duplicates exist.
1 Individuals with both parents deceased can provide a Guardian’s name and UID number. The incentives in the UID system are aligned towards a self-cleaning mechanism. The existing patchwork of multiple databases in India gives individuals the incentive to provide different personal information to different agencies. Since de-duplication in the UID system ensures that residents have only one chance to be in the database, individuals will provide accurate data. This incentive will become especially powerful as benefits and entitlements are linked to the UID.
Online authentication: The Authority will offer a strong form of online authentication, where agencies can compare demographic and biometric information of the resident with the record stored in the central database. The Authority will support Registrars and agencies in adopting the UID authentication process, and will help define the infrastructure and processes they need.
The UIDAI will not share resident data: The Authority envisions a balance between ‘privacy and purpose’ when it comes to the information it collects on residents. The agencies may store the information of residents they enrol if they are authorized to do so, but they will not have access to the information in the UID database. The UIDAI will answer requests to authenticate identity only through a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response. The Authority will also enter into contracts with Registrars to ensure the confidentiality of information they collect and store.
Technology will undergird the UIDAI system: Technology systems will have a major role across the UIDAI infrastructure. The UID database will be stored on a central server. Enrolment of the resident will be computerized, and information exchange between Registrars and the CIDR will be over a network. Authentication of the resident will be online. The Authority will also put systems in place for the security and safety of information.
For residents: The UID will become the single source of identity verification. Once residents enrol, they can use the number multiple times – they would be spared the hassle of repeatedly providing supporting identity documents each time they wish to access services such as obtaining a bank account, passport, driving license, and so on. By providing a clear proof of identity, the UID will also facilitate entry for poor and underprivileged residents into the formal banking system, and the opportunity to avail
services provided by the government and the private sector. The UID will also give migrants mobility of identity.
For Registrars and enrollers: The UIDAI will only enrol residents after de-duplicating records. This will help Registrars clean out duplicates from their databases, enabling significant efficiencies and cost savings. For Registrars focused on cost, the UIDAI’s verification processes will ensure lower KYR costs. For Registrars focused on social goals, a reliable identification number will enable them to broaden their reach into groups that till now, have been difficult to authenticate. The strong authentication that the UID number offers will improve services, leading to better resident satisfaction.
For Governments: Eliminating duplication under various schemes is expected to save the government exchequer upwards of Rs. 20,000 crores a year. It will also provide governments with accurate data on residents, enable direct benefit programs, and allow government departments to coordinate investments and share information.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was constituted as an attached office under the Planning Commission, to develop and implement the necessary legal, technical and institutional infrastructure to issue unique identity to residents of India. On June 25th 2009, the Cabinet approved the creation of the position of the Chairperson of the UIDAI, and appointed Mr. Nandan Nilekani as the first Chairperson with the rank of the Cabinet Minister.On August 3rd 2009, the Prime Minister constituted a Council under his chairmanship to advise the UIDAI and ensure coordination between the Ministries, Departments, stakeholders and partners. The Council will advise the UIDAI on the program, methodology and implementation to ensure this coordination. The Council will also identify specific milestones for the early completion of the project.
One of the key challenges that people in India face is the difficulty of establishing identity. People have multiple identity documents, with each serving a different purpose. There are often separate sets of requirements to be fulfilled in order to get these documents. The singular problem that the UIDAI will seek to solve is that of “identity”. Once a person has a UID number, their basic identity linked to their biometrics is established and can be used to uniquely identify the individual.
The UIDAI will establish an institutional microstructure to facilitate issuance of UID. This will include a Central Identity Data Repository, which will manage the central system and a network of Registrars, which will establish resident touch points through Enrolling Agencies.The Registrars would include both Government and Private Sector Agencies which already have the infrastructure in place to interface with the public to provide specified services for e.g. Insurance companies, LPG marketing companies, RSBY, NREGA etc. The UIDAI also expects that the creation of the national population register process will provide data on residents which will add to the UIDAI database and this will also enable the Authority access “hard to reach” and marginalized groups. The UIDAI will also engage with Outreach Groups which will essentially be civil society groups working on social issues to target women, children, the homeless, urban poor, tribals, the differently-abled population of the country.
CIDR and UIDAI – The CIDR is essentially a service provider to the UIDAI and will provide services which include the processing of enrolment and authentication requests as prescribed, and following pre-defined service standards. The CIDR will also develop the operating procedure for interface between the CIDR and Registrars. The CIDR will also establish and maintain a grievance redressal system to address grievances about the failure of service of any of the service providers.
Registrar and UIDAI – This is a partnership where the Registrar and UIDAI will work together to enrol people into the UID database as per the regulations and specifications laid down by the Authority for relevant fields and operating procedures. The Registrar delivers services to the people and has a keen business and social interest in ensuring the authentic identity of the people availing their services.
Registrar and Enrolling Agencies – The Enrolling Agencies are the agents of the Registrar and the touch points on the ground to enrol people into the UID database. The Enrolling Agency will directly interact with and enrol residents into the CIDR and will be monitored by the Registrars.
The UIDAI recognizes that the only way to uniquely establish identity of a resident is through the biometric attributes of each individual. The Authority will use registrars who may have basic demographic information of the resident, and confirm the relevant fields and seek biometric information for each resident while enrolling the resident for the UID. Upon collecting and de-duplicating the biometric information, a unique ID database can be created.
There is no established database in the country that can serve the purpose of a Unique ID. The available databases act as a starting point to get a register of residents in place, but cannot do anything towards identity. Further, they exist in manual and varied electronic forms that do not allow for comparison or creation of an authentic database. The UIDAI is primarily using the partnership model to leverage the existing infrastructure of registrars, instead of creating something new and expensive – some registrars may use the door to door methodology and others may use other means.
The UIDAI will only enrol residents after de-duplicating records. This will help registrars clean out duplicates from their databases, enabling significant efficiencies and cost savings. For registrars and enrollers focused on cost, the UIDAI’s verification processes will ensure lower KYR costs. For registrars focused on social goals, a reliable identification number will enable them to broaden their reach into groups that till now, have been difficult to authenticate.
Once a person is on the UID database the person will be able to establish identity easily. The UID will become the single source of identity verification. Residents would be spared the hassle of repeatedly providing supporting identity documents each time they wish to access services such as obtaining a bank account, passport, driving license, and so on.By providing a clear proof of identity, the UID will also facilitate entry for poor and underprivileged residents into the formal banking system, and the opportunity to avail services provided by the government and the private sector. The UID will also give migrants mobility of identity.
The UIDAI recognizes that inability to prove identity is one of the biggest barriers preventing the poor from accessing benefits and subsidies. The Authority is committed to inclusion and ensuring that woman, children, differently-abled persons, the poor and marginalized are able to secure a unique id. To this end the UIDAI will have an extensive registrar network which will include agencies of the government that implement schemes such as National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Rashtriya Swastya Bhima Yojana. In addition, the UIDAI will be working with outreach groups to access hard to reach communities like tribals, the differently-abled and people in remote areas of the country.
A resident will have to go to an enrolling agency, fill up an application form and provide the supporting documentation including photo and finger print.
The enrolling agency will collect this information and send the data, either singly or in batches, to the registrar who will pass this on to the UID database.
The system will engage in a de-duplication exercise.
If the individual is not already in the database, a UID number will be issued and sent to the person at their residence. The UID number will also be sent to the Registrar for use in their service database.
If the individual is already in the database the registration will be rejected and the person will be informed of the same.
The registrar will scan the supporting documentation and send it to the UIDAI and keep the physical copies with themselves.
A Know Your Resident Committee is being formed to establish what would be acceptable forms of supporting documentation. The recommendations should be made within 6 months of being set up and these standards would be used for verification.
No card will be issued by the UIDAI, but the resident will receive a letter from the UID authority giving the person the UID number and the information of the person that was collected. If there are any inaccuracies in the information, the person can correct them. There will be a tear away portion in the letter that can act as a card for referencing the number. The registrar may issue a card for their purpose in which they may include the UID number.
The UIDAI is focused on the identity of the person and not the identity document. The best match is the individual’s biometric and a card cannot be a substitute. The UID can only establish unique identity if authentication is done against the central database. Further, cards can be forged, stolen, faked and identity process diluted. While the UID authority only guarantees online authentication, the service providers are free to issue cards to people if it serves their purpose.
INFORMATION FROM RESIDENT AND ACCESS TO DATABASE AND SECURITY
The information in the database will be used only for authentication purposes. If anyone seeks to authenticate the identity of another person using the UID database, they will only receive a response in the affirmative or the negative. The UID database will not transmit information or share data with anyone.
The UID database will be guarded both physically and electronically by a few select individuals with high clearance. It will not be available even for many members of the UID staff and will be secured with the best encryption, and in a highly secure data vault. All access details will be properly logged.
The only 100% accurate authentication service that the UIDAI can provide is online authentication. In this, the biometric of the person will be matched online with the biometric in the system – a one is to one match will be run. There are other types of authentication which the registrar can choose for their use and which the UIDAI does not guarantee. Such authentication will be offline – the finger print is stored on a card issued by the Registrar for delivery of their services and can be authenticated against a finger scan. In addition a basic photo authentication can also be done, similar to what is now done in the airports.
The full board of the UIDAI may add additional data fields related to identity, and the law will contain a prescription against collecting any other information besides the information permitted, with specific prohibitions against collection of information regarding religion, race, ethnicity, case and other similar matters and the facilitation of analysis of the data for anyone or to engage in profiling or any similar activity.
The biometric of young children are not stable. However, it is crucial to capture children in the database. Children’s fingerprint and photograph will be taken and updated in the UID database every 5 years until the age of 18 (the exact details will be specified by the biometric committee). This will be enforced by an expiry-date attached to the UID number, which will become invalid after the expiry date. Until the time the biometric of the child stabilizes, any one of the parents/guardian will need to provide their biometric information for authentication.
The policy will take into consideration these exceptions and the biometric standards prescribed will ensure that these groups are not excluded. In the case of people without hands/ fingers only photo will be used for identity determination and there will be markers to determine uniqueness.
The information being sought from the person is basic information which is currently available with several government and private agencies. The information that is unique to UIDAI is the biometric information. In order to protect the right to privacy of the individual the information on the database will not be shared with anyone; all queries will get a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response. The UIDAI will also put in place regulations and protocols which have to be followed by the Central Identification Data Repository, Registrar and Enrolling agencies to protect the right to privacy.
Two different kinds of fraud can occur in the UID system, Document fraud and Identity fraud. This distinction is important in the context of UIDAI. The UID is focused on identity fraud where a person intentionally impersonates another, dead or alive, and doesn’t necessarily require the use of an identity document. Document fraud, however – the use of counterfeited documents or those with misleading information – is the responsibility of the registrar issuing the relevant document like passport, PAN card etc.
“X” will have to live with the identity of “Y” for the rest of his life because if he tries to get one more UID it will be rejected. If “Y” comes to register, the system will be able to pick up that there are similarities between “X” and “Y” and an investigation will be launched and Ys identity will be enrolled after the amending X. If “Y” is a dead person it would be more difficult to detect. In either case it will be an offence to take on the identity of another person and there may be legal action against this offence.
De – duplication process returns the application, person will be sent a response with reasons for rejection and be informed about the existing UID existing number and warning against misuse. If all the details given are the same, the person can be sent one more letter informing the person about their UID no.