Privacy concerns over Haryana’s ID scheme

Amid concerns over the Parivar Pehchan Patra scheme, the Haryana govt. says enrolment is voluntary. But residents have little choice as delivery of even birth and death certificates is linked to it

February 06, 2021 01:21 am | Updated 01:22 am IST - Gurugram

A recent email from her ward’s school has left Tripti Singh grappling with many queries and doubts.

The email says that all schools have been directed by the district education officer to collect required information for Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal’s unique identity card scheme — Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP).

It further says that it is mandatory for all families to register themselves on the PPP portal to avail the benefits of the social security schemes of the State government.

But Ms. Singh, not availing any of the government social security schemes, is not sure about the objectives of this massive data collection exercise.

She does not know what the government plans to do with this and whether the PPP was going to be accepted as an official identification document in the future in the State. “Like many parents, I do have apprehensions about sharing the details,” conceded Ms. Singh, who is the administrator of the Gurgaon Parents’ for Better Education , a Facebook platform for parents.

Renewed push

Though the PPP scheme was formally launched in July 2019 to achieve Haryana government’s vision for “paperless” and “faceless” delivery of schemes, services and benefits offered by the government, it has got a renewed push over the past few months with the government collecting data through schools, residents’ welfare associations and holding special camps across the State to enrol families, especially those who are likely to avail benefits of government schemes such as below poverty line families, social security benefit recipients etc.

Simultaneously, efforts are on to train district officials and residents are being made aware of the scheme through print and audio visual campaigns and face-to-face interactions. Focu group discussions are also being held with key stakeholders such as members of residents’ welfare associations in the urban areas and other local representatives in urban as well as rural areas.

Families enrolled

Of the estimated 65 lakh families in Haryana, around 48 lakh have voluntarily enrolled for PPP and provided the data on ‘self-declaration mode’, claimed the Haryana government.

Any family with a Haryana residential address can enrol for the scheme.

The family ID or PPP, an eight-digit alpha numeric ID, is provided to those who are residents of Haryana. A registration ID is provided to those who live in Haryana but have not completed residency requirements.

The required period for residency has been reduced to five years from 15 years as of January 2021. The registration ID for migrant families will enable the State government to provide benefits such as rations from fair price shops, benefits of labour schemes from the Labour Welfare Board and the Board for Construction Workers and the street vendors’ support schemes, and more.

Services delivered

As of now, over 110 services and schemes being delivered to citizens via the Saral platform have been linked to the PPP scheme.

These services and schemes such as social security pensions, ration cards and birth, death, caste and income certificates etc. are being delivered by various departments of the Haryana government. The government has plans to gradually extend the PPP to all government schemes, services, benefits and subsidies.

The PPP may also be linked to property records in the government database of lands and properties to prevent fraudulent transactions and clarify ownership. Integration of the PPP with land records would enable the State to provide “anytime, anywhere” online registration of property transactions instead of visiting the tehsil office. As a first step, it has been announced that from April 1, “anywhere” registration of property transactions is being attempted — the first in the country.

Contradictory reply

Replying to an email from The Hindu , the office of principal secretary, Citizen Resources Information Department (CRID), Haryana, clarified that enrolment under the PPP was voluntary, but in case a citizen or a family wished to apply for a service delivered by the Haryana government or any benefit and subsidy under any citizen welfare scheme of the State government, which has already been integrated with the PPP, the PPP ID would be required.

Enrolment is voluntary even for government employees at present, said the office of CRID principal secretary.

Gurugram-based Public Policy and Technology professional Prasanto K. Roy said the data collection exercise for Haryana’s PPP database was problematic on multiple fronts. “A lot of data is being sought, well above and beyond what is required to deliver education and related services. The demand for Aadhaar numbers — evidently, virtually mandatory — is in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines — especially if no State benefits or subsidies are being sought by the residents,” said Mr. Roy.

He also expressed concern over reports of plans to cross-link this database with other databases, saying that if the PPP becomes a precondition to getting birth or death certificates, etc. then there is no choice in the matter and it was an offer you can’t refuse.

Data abuse

“Additionally, in the absence of privacy laws in India, or any indication of data protection Standard Operating Procedures being followed for this exercise, I would worry about potential abuse of this data — including, but not limited to, its immediate leakage and availability to spammers at the very least, and perhaps more insidious uses,” said Mr. Roy.

He added that though various official portals, including the State government website, it is stated that the “data is to be taken with consent”, but the State government is virtually mandating that consent via schools.

“It is virtually telling schools and RWAs, please ensure 100% compliance,” Mr. Roy said, adding that the State government, in other words, was telling the residents of Haryana that giving this data was optional, but consent was mandatory, and you need to be in this database if you want any services, not just subsidies or benefits from the State but also birth and death certificates. “That is beyond bizarre,” he said. The office of PS, CRID, however, said that the data in PPP would be used only for planning purposes and for delivery of government schemes, subsidies, benefits and services and not for any private purpose. “Only data that is legitimately sought for implementation of government schemes, subsidies, benefits or services is put together and not any other private data.” It also dismissed apprehensions that the State government might profile people on the basis of this data and use it for election campaigns and strategy as “baseless”.

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