NEW DELHI — The Unique Identification Authority of India is providing “technical support” to the Government of Assam to build a biometric database of residents excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), confirming fears that the infrastructure put in place to build India’s controversial Aadhaar database is being leveraged by the country’s security apparatus to put thousands of people under surveillance.
While the UIDAI and Government of Assam have repeatedly refused to share the details of exactly how this collaboration is working, correspondence reviewed by HuffPost India reveals that the sensitive biometric data of approximately 40 lakh individuals shall be collected by the UIDAI, but will be under the control of the state’s Home and Political Department, which oversees the NRC, prisons, and police among others.
In a 21 May 2019 letter to the Deputy Secretary of the Home and Political Department, C P Phookan, Assistant Director of the UIDAI, Piyush Chetiya, flagged a grievance raised by an Assam resident regarding the biometric enrollment process — abbreviated to BME in official correspondence — and noted, “As the Home and Political Department, Government of Assam, is supervising and monitoring the BME process under certain guidelines/SOP and UIDAI is facilitating the department in the form of technical support, it is requested that the grievance of the resident is addressed by the Home and Political Department, Government of Assam under intimation to this office.”
Chetiya also suggested the resident’s grievance be referred to the nodal officer of the district so that the grievance can be ‘appropriately addressed as per NRC BME guidelines’, confirming that the collection of biometric details of the people left out of the NRC is not being done as per UIDAI’s guidelines, but an entirely new set of rules devised by the NRC authorities.
The government has repeatedly stated that Aadhaar was solely intended to plug leakages in...