Order Independent Judicial Probe Into Reports of Massive Leakage of Aadhar Data: EAS Sarma
Personal information details of 815 million Indians was put up on sale on the dark web, according to US cyber security firm Resecurity.
New Delhi: Raising concerns over recent media reports on the massive leak of Aadhar details of 815 million people and data put on sale on the dark web, EAS Sarma, former secretary to the government of India, has called for an independent judicial enquiry.
“Since individual regulatory authorities seem to be treating this matter somewhat casually, leaving unwary citizens in the lurch and since the consequences of the Aadhar breach can create all-round chaos and lawlessness, the Centre is under an obligation to institute an independent enquiry by members of the higher judiciary so that the citizens may repose trust in its credibility,” wrote Sarma in a letter to Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.
According media reports in October, personal information of 815 million Indians was put up on sale on the dark web, according to US cyber security firm Resecurity. The details included Aadhar number, passport details, phone number and addresses. The hacker, who seemed to have got the details from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) databases was reportedly selling the data for $80,000, as per the US firm.
Referring to the matter as “too serious to be treated lightly’, Sarma said the sale of Aadhar data through the dark web, as reported, has enabled hackers to obtain mobile numbers linked to those Aadhar cards and misuse them in myriad ways, including hacking bank accounts, harassing people through such fake mobile numbers and so on.”
The retired bureaucrat said with the 2024 general elections not far away and large-scale hacking of bank accounts being reported, the government cannot afford to ignore such a serious matter.
Read the full letter below (as published in Countercurrents):
Shri Rajiv Gauba
Govt of India
Dear Shri Gauba,
I refer to the news report which revealed that the Aadhar data relating to 815 million citizens had been leaked, with the data put on sale in the dark web.This implies that the Aadhar data of 57% of the population of India is on sale. One is not sure whether the data relating to the rest of the population are also leaked!
This is far too serious a matter for it to be treated lightly and it calls for nothing less than an independent judicial enquiry, for the following reasons:
- It is the government that has been obstinately insisting on Aadhar card linkage for every conceivable part of the citizen’s life, including bank accounts, medical insurance, Covid testing/ vaccination, voter’s identity, passports and whatnot, without putting in place a commensurate fool-proof security system to preempt hacking and leakage of the personal information of the citizens.
- I had earlier written to the Election Commission of India (ECI) that in many States, the number of Aadhar cards exceeded the population and a sharp spike in the number of Aadhar cards had been observed in some sensitive States, giving room for the proliferation of fake Aadhar cards. My letter dated 29-4-2023 (https://countercurrents.org/2023/04/proliferation-of-fake-aadhaar-cards-a-threat-to-integrity-of-2024-elections/) refers. Already, in several States, there have been instances of single households having hundreds of voter identity cards, about which the Commission is fully aware. Are some political parties involved in manipulating the electoral rolls to their advantage by misusing the above-cited Aadhar data? This can play havoc with the integrity of elections during general elections of 2024.
- Had the government conducted the 2021 Census on time, there would have been a basis for cross-checking the State-wise Aadhar card numbers as a macro verification instrument. It is the Centre, citing the COVID epidemic, that insisted on deferring the 2021 Census, conveniently forgetting that even when the Spanish Flu paralysed India around 1918-19, the then government with little resources, preferred to conduct the 1921 Census, given its importance as an important statistical necessity. Should not the government own responsibility for deferring the Census count and depriving the country of an authentic population count?
- By resorting to unduly excessive use of Article 282 of the Constitution to escalate the multiplicity of Centrally Sponsored schemes (CSSs) to a mind-boggling number of 314 involving Rs 4.76 lakh crores of public money, largely transferred directly to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts linked to their Aadhar Cards, the large-scale existence of fake Aadhar cards would have led to large numbers of fake Jandhan bank accounts, resulting in public funds going to wrong beneficiaries. I have brought this to the notice of the Finance Ministry without eliciting any response (https://countercurrents.org/2023/07/length-of-the-last-mile-how-well-the-welfare-schemes-fare-in-the-last-mile/). Who are the beneficiaries of the mis-directed public funds?
- The sale of Aadhar data through the dark web, as reported, has enabled hackers to obtain mobile numbers linked to those Aadhar cards and misuse them in myriad ways, including hacking bank accounts, harassing people through such fake mobile numbers and so on. For no fault of theirs, the citizens find themselves subject to investigation by the police and other agencies. I have brought instances of this kind to the attention of TRAI, RBI, and UAIDA without much response.
Since individual regulatory authorities seem to be treating this matter somewhat casually, leaving unwary citizens in the lurch and since the consequences of the Aadhar breach can create all-round chaos and lawlessness, the Centre is under an obligation to institute an independent enquiry by members of the higher judiciary so that the citizens may repose trust in its credibility.
Kindly treat this as urgent as the 2024 elections are not far away and large-scale hacking of bank accounts etc. is already taking place, which the government cannot afford to ignore.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to the Government of India
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