De-duplication and “self-cleaning” 101

दोहरापन रोकने की प्रक्रिया सुनिश्चित करना

Today’s brief entry is the first to examine the current Government of India (hereafter GOI) UIDAI website. As per the last entry, I am hoping to begin to address the process of de-duplication: techniques, rationales and presumptions, politics, experience, critique.

UIDAI has a public website: currently, I seem only to be able to access Hindi and English versions. The Hindi is found at and the English at (the public of Universal ID does not seem yet to extend to other language spheres): at least in the few sections of both blogs, they had sentence for sentence matched content which appeared to be a translation from the English to Hindi.  दोहरापन may not have the same semantic and affective resonance as the Hindi-English “duplicate”/डुप्लिकेट.

The main web page in either language directs one to a link marked Aadhaar Technology. [Aadhaar (आधार), the other name for the UID, can translate as basis, ground, fundamental].

Here is the relevant section on de-duplication:

Process to ensure no duplicates: Registrars will send the applicant’s data to the CIDR for de-duplication. The CIDR will perform a search on key demographic fields and on the biometrics for each new enrolment, to minimise/eliminate duplicates in the database.

The incentives in the UIDAI system are aligned towards a self-cleaning mechanism. The existing patchwork of multiple databases in India provides scope to individuals to furnish different personal information to different agencies. Since de-duplication in the UIDAI system ensures that residents have only one chance to be in the database, individuals are made to provide accurate data. This incentive will become especially powerful as benefits and entitlements are linked to Aadhaar.

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 Aadhaar authentication process, and will help defining the infrastructure and processes they need.

Terms: CIDR

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.

So, one of the first things we need to understand is the “system of positions,” to misuse the phrase of anthropologist Jeanne Favret-Saada. We earlier encountered the dyad of the ‘registrar’ and the ‘resident’: here we have some kind of chain linking UIDAI—CIDR—Registrar and thus to the Resident. Okay, more to learn about.

The point here is that CIDR is in immediate charge of the problem of duplication, and CIDR is  apparently also both omsbudsperson and auditor to collect and address complaints against Registrars and others. If I understand the technical language correctly [I doubt that I do, yet]: the Registrar sends the ID data, I presume both biographical and biometric, on to the CIDR, which in turn ‘authenticates’ both data and enrollment process and somehow ‘de-duplicates’ differing and somehow incommensurable versions of identity the Resident (client/common man/citizen) has managed (erroneously or on purpose) to relate to varied “agencies” of the state, the archipelago of NGOs, and the corporate formal sector. The registrant or Resident enters the process under a cloud, as it were, of being or having a duplicate. His or her formal entry into the new system must ensure that no such duplicates in fact exist. But—and here again is a flicker of the promise of UIDAI to end corruption—this selfsame CIDR not only polices duplicate persons/files but also the varied agencies that can act as Registrants.

So one point only, today:

1) The iron cage: even if the UIDAI is both in good faith and accurate in its prediction that UID will offer greater accountibility and some measure of social or distributive justice, its promise of de-duplication ends the availability of redundant identity as a feature of living with and under the state.

In earlier work, I borrowed Roma Chatterji’s concept of the file self [developed to describe how staff in a Dutch old age home constitute the personhood of demented residents through the selective and strategic citation of their medical case files] to argue that families and other loved ones of hospital patients I was working with in Varanasi in north India strategically and selectively presented their relation’s case files to medical personnel to achieve varied outcomes, or attempt to do so. The “file” in this sense consisted of an assemblage of traces of earlier clinical events and encounters. Each offered a certain identity and generated a certain range of outcomes. The effective challenge in presenting a relation to a busy and perhaps arrogant physician in a government hospital was to augment and winnow these trace identities. More broadly, I will frame the clinical encounter as an effort (with its attendant failures, of course) to constitute a relation to an often more powerful and variously disinterested or distrustful officer/clinician/expert/agent through the management of redundancy.

What happens when the possibilities of the redundant erode, here under the pressures of presumptive rationalization?

One way out, if a way out is to be sought, is to argue for the rationality of redundancy. Evolutionary biologists have been one source of powerful thinking about redundancy in biological systems, and systems engineering more generally has developed complex models of what I will call critical redundancy.

But redundancy is fought, here, for the UIDAI, because the duplicate is always assumed to be the counterfeit.

Note too the language here in the web discussion of de-duplication as ‘self-cleaning.’ More on this I hope to come.

1 thought on “De-duplication and “self-cleaning” 101

  1. Pingback: “Aadhaar Fraud”: a case study in Hyderabad | followuidai

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