Intervention and penumbra 2: the Humsafar Trust/Wipro TG/Hijra UID Aadhaar camp

Today I want to look at responses to Vivek Anand’s posting on the Gay Bombay listserve.

Several very active, important people in overlapping LGBT rights and AIDS prevention and treatment worlds wrote supportively of Humsafar Trust [HST]’s initiative. For example:

Excellent initiative, Congratulations.
Best,
Aditya B
 And
This is an absolutely marvelous initiative Vivek and Pallav! The
TG community certainly needs to get Aadhaar numbers. From the
very beginning Nandan Nilekani's team of UIDAI has ensured that
the enrollment process of Aadhaar is INCLUSIVE. The demographic
data capture field for gender has three options MALE, FEMALE and
TRANSGENDER. You may want to get more information about Aadhaar
and how it will change the face of India on this link:
http://uidai.gov.in/ <http://uidai.gov.in/>

Aadhaar is the world's largest biometric data (iris scan, face
pic, fingerprint) capture project. UIDAI targets 1.2 billion
residents of India.

Regards,
Deep

Deep’s posting is interesting, suggesting not only the powerful draw of state recognition (here legible as the technical code allowing a ‘data capture field for gender’ with ‘three options MALE, FEMALE and TRANSGENDER’) but also that this new form of recognition and inclusion is identified directly with the executive and efficient force of Nandan Nilekani himself.

More announcements from HST followed. The HST Advocacy Officer Gautam Yadav posted the following, which I only excerpt as it otherwise overlaps with CEO Vivek Anand’s letter.

Each TG/Hijra group in the city has been asked to mobilize their
populations to avail of this facility. In case identity documents
are incomplete the organisation can do the following. Provide: 

1) Letter from the organisation they are working with/accessing
services (respective NGO) with their photo for identity proof

2) Address proof of office( electric bill/ telephone bill/ leave
license agreement) as their address proof.

We have informed Sakhi Char Chowghi, Astitva, Ekta Foundation,
Darpan Foundation, Triveni Sangam , Kinnar Kastoori and Kinnar
Asmita to mobilise their communities to avail of this facility.

Of note, this posting directly addresses a similar concern to the one I raised yesterday: persons who cannot produce POI [Proof of Identity] documentation can instead be identified as a recipient of services from the ‘respective NGO’; and, if I understand the post correctly, the NGO’s POA [Proof of Address] can serve as proxy for the Resident’s.

Thus, very interestingly, ‘residency’ as a requirement for universal recognition by UIDAI has a proxy condition: NGO affiliation as a recipient of services.The NGO stands in for the formal residency that the ‘informalized’ urban slumdweller cannot produce. To use the contested terms of Partha Chatterjee, the NGO brokers the relation of political society (those lacking formal relations of legitimacy to labor and to land) to civil society (those formally recognizable as citizens).

Others were less optimistic: “cuteboy” writes

Gautamji... what good will this UID do ???

Deep responds again, this time with the by now familiar promise of UID. It is a lengthy posting, the length itself worth noting. The length and density, if heartfelt, seem to bludgeon cuteboy’s question…. What may also be worth noting is that the subject of this positive claim for UID is not a specifically gendered or transgendered subaltern but (I would argue) once again the generalized ‘common man’ I have encountered over the past week’s readings.

I am not suggesting that such a generalization is necessarily a problem: one could argue in contrast that Deep resists the pathologization or spectacularization of transgender life. But whereas in theory such a refusal to specify the benefits of UID for transgender, kinnar, or hijra persons and communities may resist a certain kind of interpellation, in practice I find myself wondering if critical questions are being neglected.

Deep’s first theme is access to state and private services through universal and trustworthy identification. Implicit, to the extent this is a response to the marginalization of transgender persons, is a claim that in being rendered both universal and trustworthy kinnars, hijras, and others will gain access to services.

Why Aadhaar? Aadhaar-based identification will have two unique
features: Universality, which is ensured because Aadhaar will
over time be recognised and accepted across the country and across
all service providers. Every resident's entitlement to the number.
The number will consequently form the basic, universal identity
infrastructure over which Registrars and Agencies across the 
country can build their identity-based applications. Unique 
Identification of India (UIDAI) will build partnerships with 
various Registrars across the country to enrol residents for the 
number. Such Registrars may include state governments, state 
Public Sector Units (PSUs), banks, telecom companies, etc. These 
Registrars may in turn partner with enrolling agencies to enrol 
residents into Aadhaar. Aadhaar will ensure increased trust 
between public and private agencies and residents. Once residents 
enrol for Aadhaar, service providers will no longer face the 
problem of performing repeated Know Your Customer (KYC) checks 
before providing services. They would no longer have 
to deny services to residents without identification documents. 
Residents would also  be spared the trouble of repeatedly proving
identity through documents each time they wish to access services 
such as obtaining a bank account, passport, or driving license 
etc. By providing a clear proof of identity, Aadhaar will empower 
poor and underprivileged residents in accessing services such as 
the formal banking system and give them the opportunity to easily 
avail various other services provided by the Government and the 
private sector. The centralised technology infrastructure of the 
UIDAI will enable 'anytime, anywhere, anyhow' authentication. 
Aadhaar will thus give migrants mobility of identity. Aadhaar 
authentication can be done both offline and online, online 
authentication through a cell phone or land line connection will 
allow residents to verify their identity remotely. Remotely, 
online Aadhaar-linked identity verification will give poor 
and rural residents the same flexibility that urban non-poor 
residents presently have in verifying their identity and 
accessing services such as banking and retail. Aadhaar will also 
demand proper verification prior to enrolment, while ensuring 
inclusion. Existing identity databases in India are fraught with
problems of fraud and duplicate or ghost beneficiaries. To prevent
these problems from seeping into the Aadhaar database, the UIDAI 
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 beginning of the 
program. However, much of the poor and under-privileged 
population lack identity documents and Aadhaar may be the first 
form of identification they will have access to. The UIDAI will 
ensure that its Know Your Resident (KYR) standards do not become a 
barrier for enrolling the poor and has accordingly developed an 
Introducer system for residents who lack documentation. Through 
this system, authorised individuals ('Introducers') who already 
have an Aadhaar, can introduce residents who don't have any 
identification documents, enabling them to receive their Aadhaar.
Deep goes on to add a lengthy discussion of micropayments, an extensive and well-formulated rationale for how Aadhaar will enable marginal economic actors (“the poor”) to be incorporated into the economy. I will not take up the economics of UID yet.
Before returning to the listserve and to what it includes and excludes, I would just note what else Deep’s posting offers: (1) terminology, positions, rationales: Introducers, KYR standards, KYC checks, the familiar problem of duplication (here described as a “seepage” into the Aadhaar database); (2) a flexible vision of “anytime, anywhere, anyhow authentication” that seems at the outset like an extraordinary mash-up of an ATM machine and a society of total control.

Deep’s was the last posting archived of this thread. Whereas both the formal media and the blogosphere are saturated with critiques of UIDAI, on Gay Bombay at this point one found primarily optimism and expertise. At the most basic, one could argue that Aadhaar was one of a series of recent and negotiated decisions between transgender and kinnar communities (and transgender in English and kinnar (किन्नर) in Hindi are increasingly replacing hijra in much state documentation and debate on the census, reservations in government and education, and UID) and the state, and that its power lies in the importance of recognition of transgender and kinnar persons and communities here as a third gender. But Deep’s posting focuses on the generalized opposition of the poor and the “non-poor,” under the new conditions of non-poor NGOs as Introducers of the poor.

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One thought on “Intervention and penumbra 2: the Humsafar Trust/Wipro TG/Hijra UID Aadhaar camp

  1. Pingback: “UID and Transgenders” Conference: Rights Activists Nix Aadhaar | followuidai

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