Every family in J-K to get unique ID, Opposition parties raise concerns

Mehbooba Mufti said Kashmiris are viewed with suspicion and dubbed the unique family ID as another "surveillance tool".

Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir administration is planning to create an authentic database of all families in the Union territory with each of them having a unique alpha-numeric code — the objective being an easy selection of eligible beneficiaries of various social welfare schemes.

The proposed move to allot “Family ID” has been welcomed by the BJP but panned by other parties which raised concerns over personal data safety.

At the recent national conference on e-governance in Katra in Reasi district, Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar released the Digital J&K Vision Document, unveiling the government plan to create an authentic, verified and reliable database of all families of the Union territory.

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According to the vision document, “Each family will be provided with a unique alpha-numeric code called JK Family ID. The data available in the family database would be used to determine eligibility through automatic selection of beneficiaries for receiving social benefits.”

“The database would identify each and every family in J&K and would collect the basic data of the family, provided with the consent of the family, in a digital format.”

The document further reads that all the applicable laws and regulations in respect of data protection shall be complied with in the management of data.

To thwart risks and protect sensitive and critical data, it said the Jammu and Kashmir government plans to work on an information security policy and also envisages formulation of an appropriate cyber security framework.

Commissioner Secretary of the IT Department Prerna Puri said the objective of creating the database, which will be at par with Haryana’s ‘Parivaar Pehchaan Patra’, is that families or individuals will not have to apply to receive benefits under each individual scheme.

“Once the data in the JK Family ID database is authenticated and verified, a beneficiary will not be required to submit any more documents to avail of a service,” she told PTI.

The Congress, National Conference and the PDP slammed the proposed move.

Congress chief spokesperson and former legislator Ravinder Sharma questioned the government’s intention and also it’s capacity to protect such digital databases from cyber attacks.

“Why does the government wish to peek into everything? They already have enough data through Aadhaar and are providing benefits through direct bank transfer (DBT) mode,” Sharma said.

Referring to cyber attacks by Chinese entities and ransomware attacks on the AIIMS servers, he said in such a situation, the protection of personal data of the people is a major challenge.

National Conference provincial president Rattan Lal Gupta termed the exercise an “unproductive use of resources”.

“They already have a database of every individual because of Aadhaar. So, creating another database is not fruitful…the administration is keeping the staff busy with data collection while people are left devoid of basic facilities,” he said.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) asked who the government wanted to identify through this database.

“There are a lot of problems in J&K which the government ignores. Now, who the government is trying to identify through this database?” PDP leader Virendra Singh Sonu said.

However, the BJP welcomed the move and said the people who have to stand in queues to get various benefits and certificates will benefit once a verified database is prepared.

“The new database will be helpful in many ways as people have been alleging that Census 2011 was not correct and many people have been wrongly added under BPL category,” he said, adding a similar family database is already there in Haryana and so there is nothing to worry about.

The vision document itself acknowledges that in the absence of coherent policies relating to data security and privacy, the progress of digital transformation is bound to be slow and fraught with several risks.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Security, M Y Kichloo said vulnerabilities and possibilities of cyber attacks will remain when it comes to digital storage of data.

“We will face the same problems in Jammu and Kashmir which are faced across the country viz- a-viz data. Whenever a database is prepared by the government, an IT audit is conducted by experts,” he said.

As far as data protection is concerned, the officer said, the Jammu and Kashmir government will soon issue a notification under Section 70 of the Information Technology (IT) Act to declare all information structures of government offices and public sector undertakings as protected systems.

“In case of a data breach, the quantum of punishment would be 10 years which would work as a deterrent,” Kichloo said.

Chief Town Planner of the Jammu Development Authority Jagdish Raj Hans said the exercise would be helpful in more ways than just extending benefits of government schemes.

“Currently, JDA is conducting a socio-economic survey for revising the master plan and a door-to-door survey of nearly 9,000 households is being undertaken with the help of a Delhi-based consultancy firm. If a bigger database with all social indicators of families of J&K becomes available, then we would not have to do this sample survey,” he said.

According to the vision document, over the next five years, the government aims to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and equitability in the delivery of public services and all the functions of the government using emerging technologies.

Another ‘surveillance tool’: Mehbooba

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s plan to create a unique family ID’ for residents of the Union Territory was emblematic of the widening “trust deficit” after the 2019 abrogation of Article 370.

The former chief minister said Kashmiris are viewed with suspicion and dubbed the unique family ID as another “surveillance tool”.

“Creating a unique family ID’ for J&K residents is emblematic of the widening trust deficit esp post-2019,” Mufti tweeted.

“Kashmiris are viewed with deep suspicion & this is another surveillance tactic to tighten the iron grip on their lives,” she added.

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