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Education Ministry looks to integrate National Academic Depository with Aadhaar for ‘verification’ purposes

Bank and Aadhaar details of faculty members may also be subjected to authentication via a common portal.

Aadhaar, PAN Card

India’s Ministry of Education is looking to develop an app that can link the National Academic Depository, which is an online database for students to store their degrees, certificates, etc., with the Aadhaar database and DigiLocker.

According to two different ‘problem statements’ for the Smart India Hackathon 2022 issued by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the council and the Ministry of Education aim to track students and colleges to help them in developing an app that can help in  —

  • Student identification
  • AICTE-approved college tracking
  • Distribution of fellowships
  • Grants and training

Currently, the AICTE said that it does not have a singular point for undertaking such processes and “hence to track the huge number manually is hectic and a time taking process due to which many students and graduates may miss out on important opportunities.”

This comes a few months after the Unique Identification Authority of India, in a memorandum, said Central and state government ministries will be able to share partially-masked Aadhaar number along with demographic information among themselves.

The app will store students’ biometric and college details

The app which will provide a linkage between National Academic Depository, DigiLocker, and the Aadhaar portal, should be able to store students’ biometric and college details for helping them in tracking jobs, fellowships, and schemes, the AICTE said.

“This App will provide the link between Aadhaar Number & Roll Number and the students should update the data of “Aadhaar Number” along with “Roll Number” on National Academic Depositary (It is like Linking roll. no. with Aadhaar No.). This will help in Verification of AICTE Approved Institutes, Verification of Students and Message service for students like job alert etc,” AICTE said in its problem statement.

Solution to verify not just students but teachers too: AICTE

In another problem statement, AICTE pointed out that it has a database of faculties and students of its affiliated institutions with the following details —

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  • Aadhaar
  • PAN
  • Bank details

“However, still there is no integration done to obtain a common facility to verify Aadhaar, Aadhaar-seeded bank account details from UID, National Payments Corporation of India and PAN of faculty and students,” it read while mentioning the need for a common app or portal that would be able to automate the process of collecting such information.

NHA sought Aadhaar data to identify health insurance beneficiaries

The National Health Authority (NHA) has sought Aadhaar and other details of beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), in a letter sent to the Director of the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DoFPD) on January 5. Deficiencies in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) require it to be mapped with Aadhaar and NFSA data to identify beneficiaries under the AB-PMJAY (public health insurance scheme), NHA CEO RS Sharma wrote in the letter.

Subsequently, the DoFPD director urged states and Union Territories to share this data with the NHA using API integration. However, several state governments were reluctant to do so, owing to confusion around whether Aadhaar data can be shared freely within ministries, according to minutes from a meeting between the NHA and the Unique Identificatory Authority of India (UIDAI) held on January 4. Officials from the National Informatics Centre, IT Ministry, and DoPFD also attended the meeting. The NHA has denied any reservations among states on this issue, saying that “the process of database sharing has already commenced in several States/UTs.”

What does the Aadhaar Act say?

The Aadhaar Act, 2016, was introduced for the delivery of subsidies, benefits, and services, to Indian citizens by assigning unique identity numbers to them. There are over 300 schemes notified under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act which cover a huge number of individuals.

It is mandatory to inform individuals in writing under Section 29(3) of the Aadhaar Act, for which purposes their Aadhaar number is being used by the ministry. But, in another memorandum recently, the UIDAI stated that ministries can use consent obtained from individuals during a particular scheme for any future schemes as long as they inform the individuals via email or mobile. The departments will have to get a consent form filled by the individual submitting their identity information for authentication.

UIDAI’s powers were expanded recently

The central government amended the Aadhaar Act (Adjudication of Penalties) Rules 2021 last year to give UIDAI powers to penalise entities for both civil and criminal violations. It outlined the following mechanism for UIDAI to enforce the penalties, and hence implement the privacy safeguards outlined in the Act.

Who should be the adjudicating officer? Under the Aadhaar Act, UIDAI must appoint an adjudicating officer to deal with violations of the act. The officer must:

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  • not be below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India
  • possess ten years or more of experience in the government body
  • possess more than three years of experience law, management, IT or commerce

How to send a complaint: The UIDAI can send a complaint to the adjudicating officer in case of a violation, which must contain the following:

  • the nature of the contravention
  • relevant provision of the Aadhaar Act or rules issued by UIDAI
  • the maximum penalty which can be imposed on the person or entity
  • the timing, place of contravention along with supporting documents

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Update, February 22, 12.52 pm: Rephrased the lede to reflect that AICTE is looking to develop an app through the Smart India Hackathon 2022, and not ‘looking for an app’.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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