Former Indian skipper MS Dhoni's name today popped up in Parliament as the Opposition tried to pin the government in the Rajya Sabha over the security of the Aadhaar data and privacy concerns related to the unique identification.
Congress leader P Chidambaram cited the the example of Dhoni's wife Sakshi alleging a leak of her cricketer husband’s Aadhaar details and asked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley how the government planned to protect the privacy of bank accounts and income tax details of people since it was making Aadhaar mandatory for income tax and PAN.
"Pentagon has been hacked. How will you protect hacking of income tax and bank accounts through Aadhaar?" Chidambaram said while speaking on a debate on the Finance Bill 2017 in the Rajya Sabha. He added that "MS Dhoni's wife has complained his Aadhaar number is being made public."
Jaitley said that the fear of technology being susceptible to misuse does not mean we should not use it.
"I think Pentagon got hacked without Aadhaar being there. So hacking can take place even if Aadhaar is not involved," Jaitley quipped.
"If technology can be breached, doesn't mean we shouldn't use technology."
Chidambaram shot back, "Don't caricature the question."
"If you don't want to answer, say I don't want to answer," he said.
Jaitley said in response that he did have a point. "If firewalls can be broken, and hacking can be done, it will be done whether Aadhaar is there or not. Don't say it is due to Aadhaar," Jaitley said.
Earlier today, Dhoni's wife Sakshi pointed out the agency involved with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to enroll citizens for Aadhar shared the personal details of the ace cricketer on social media which amounted to a breach of privacy.
On this, Jaitley said: "It was immature behaviour on behalf of the person who went there," adding that action has been taken against responsible party.
"Don't compare it (Aadhaar) with what happened yesterday with Mr Dhoni because this was a case where some individual miscounducted for a crave of a selfie or a photograph and he is being blacklisted for ten years. It was an immature behaviour of the person," the Finance Minister said.
He reasoned that the idea therefore not to use technology or to go in only for obsolete methods of collection of documents is not the answer.
Responding to Opposition's fears that linking income tax returns and bank accounts with Aadhaar may result in hacking, Jaitley said that the provision is meant to eliminate possibility of tax fraud and of possessing multiple PAN cards.
Admitting that Aadhaar was a "great initiative" of the previous UPA government, Jaitley said the it was being expanded by making it mandatory for direct benefit transfer of subsidy and checking of tax evasion.
"....some of us at some stage had doubts (about Aadhaar). Immediately when this government was formed, the Prime Minister took a presentation and I was present.
"I put across some doubts some of which were raised even by your colleagues when you were in government. They were answered adequately and we were candid to say that we accept that it was a great initiative and we will expand the initiative. We accepted that, I have no hesitation in this," he said.
"Now these are all areas which we are now expanding into. I share the concern and that is why there is a provision in the Act that privacy norms must be maintained, it can't be made public," Jaitley said.
For availing benefits, he said one can produce an Aadhaar card and or any other proof as an identity and simultaneously apply for aadhaar.
Responding to repeated questions by the Congress members as to why Aadhaar was being made mandatory, he countered by asking why this technology should not be utilised since it was created for public benefit.
"As we learnt from the benefit of that technology and the strength of that technology, can it be used to make sure that benefits are not misused? Can we make it for direct benefit transfer? Can we use it for detecting any form of tax misrepresentation or frauds.