Centre for Internet & Society

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has published the Aadhaar details and other personal information of thousands of its pourakarmikas - civic workers who sweep streets and collect waste door-to-door.

This has angered activists who believe it could be misused. BBMP claims it was done to bring transparency in the city's solid waste management. The article by Bharat Joshi was published in the Economic Times on May 29, 2017.

The Aadhaar number, provident fund number, employee state insurance (ESIC) number and residential addresses of thousands of pourakarmikas are available ward-wise on the civic body's website. ET accessed as many as 4,215 Aadhaar numbers and 5,744 PF and ESI numbers of pourakarmikas from 58 wards. The number could be much higher across the city's 198 wards. An ESI number grants access to personal details of an employee on the esic.nic.in website, such as father's name and date of birth.

The city has over 30,000 pourakarmikas, most of them Dalit women and employed by contractors. The disclosure of their Aadhaar numbers comes at a time when the Modi administration's push for wider application of the unique identification number has triggered a nationwide debate on privacy.

"(Disclosure) happens because authorities don't read the law," Supreme Court advocate KV Dhananjay said. "There is every possibility of misuse, especially identity theft. What hackers do is they start aggregating such information because the Aadhaar is used as a platform for transfer of benefits. And with Aadhaar set to become the anchor for many things, the BBMP should immediately remove those details."

A recent report by city-based Centre for Internet and Society flagged four government agencies for publishing Aadhaar and other financial data. It blamed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for turning a blind eye to the lack of standards prescribed for how other agencies deal with data, such cases of massive public disclosure and "the myriad ways in which it could be used for mischief."

Earlier this month, UIDAI chief executive officer Ajay Bhushan Pandey wrote to chief secretaries of all states, reminding them that publishing an Aadhaar number is prohibited under Sections 29(2), 29(3) and 29(4) of the Aadhaar Act, 2016. "Our intention was not to cause anyone any harm," BBMP Joint Commissioner (solid waste management) Sarfaraz Khan said. The idea was to prevent contractors from taking payments against non-existent pourakarmikas. "We're also planning to make public details of which exact street a pourakarmika is working on."

He added that he would discuss the disclosure with the Commissioner, "If there is any violation, the Aadhaar numbers will be removed."

This points to the need for BBMP to have a policy on data and privacy, said Vinay K Sreenivasa of the Alternative Law Forum. "Of what use is an Aadhaar number to the BBMP? Names and photographs would have sufficed to ensure transparency."

ET Follow-up on Scare in Malleswaram
BBMP Joint Commissioner Sarfaraz Khan was unaware that publishing Aadhaar data is a punishable offence. However, the election wing of the BBMP has ordered a probe after ET reported how a certain Hanumantharaju, claiming to be a municipal official, collected Aadhaar details from residents of the Atma KT Apartment in Malleswaram.

Residents also filed a complaint with the Malleswaram police. "We called the man's mobile number but a woman picked up. Further investigation is underway and BBMP is also checking its records," a police officer said.

Residents also plan to submit a representation to Malleswaram MLA CN Ashwathnarayan. "We have taken this seriously and are awaiting a report from the Malleswaram BBMP revenue office," Assistant Commissioner (election) TR Shobha told ET.