In July 2017, a woman was found passed out on the footpath in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa. She bore an Aadhaar card identifying her as a Delhi resident called Duniya Khan. On investigation, local police found that she was actually an Uzbek national from Tashkent, whose name is Zeboo Asalina. It's been nearly a year since, but the Aadhaar card is still active, as verified on the UIDAI website by HuffPost.
This raises a lot of questions about the security of the Aadhaar database. The foreign woman, whose Aadhaar bears a fake name and address, nonetheless has a genuine Aadhaar number — it was verified on the UIDAI website, and the Aadhaar-linked phone number was confirmed by the Bhubaneshwar police, and cross checked with Asalina's Facebook account which had the same phone number listed.
This comes at a time when the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar is being considered in the Supreme Court. The five-judge bench of the court had reserved its judgement on the validity of Aadhaar on May 10, and the judgement is expected sometime this month. The judgement will have major implications for Aadhaar, from the various linkages which were mandated, to the government's claims that it is required to fight cases of fraud.
HuffPost has accessed documents related to the arrest, and seen the Aadhaar card, where Duniya Khan gives her date of birth as August 14, 1995. On Facebook her account is still active and you see a young, cheerful woman with an easy smile. On the Aadhaar card, the small photo is much less flattering. In the FIR documents accessed by HuffPost, it's revealed that the Bhubaneshwar police apprehended Khan/ Asalina on July 23, 2017, when she was found sleeping on the footpath, holding a bottle of alcohol. When she woke up, she started cursing the police, kicking and slapping the police staff, and breaking the mirror of the police jeep.
At the police station, she continued to be aggressive, but a search revealed an Apple iPhone, and a bag containing Rs. 49,500, and the Aadhaar card, with her photo, in the name of Duniya Khan. The Aadhaar card's linked phone number was ascertained by the police, which was then used to identify her Facebook account, which is when the second identity came out.
At this point, the police suspected that Asalina was involved in a sex racket. Following this incident, the police arrested Tapas Jana, for running illegal sex trade in a rented accomodation in Patia near Bhubhaneshwar. "He initially identified himself as the caretaker of the duplex, but later confessed to running the illegal trade with a woman. He confessed to luring the girl into the trade. Jana was involved in communicating with the customers as well as transportation of girls and bargaining with clients for providing the escort services," said a police officer.
The police seized three phones from the accused, which contained photographs of around 70 women, including Asalina. HuffPost has reached out to the Odisha police and the UIDAI for more information, and we will update this if the agencies respond.
Update: The UIDAI responded after the publication of this article and said that the Aadhaar number has been suspended. It added that it could not share any more details.
How does an Uzbek call girl get an Aadhaar card?
The Bhubaneshwar police told Odisha local news site Ommcom that the Aadhaar was likely forged. However, HuffPost checked the Aadhaar number on the UIDAI website, where it was verified as belonging to a woman between 20-30 years, from Delhi, with a phone number ending in the same last three digits as the one that the Bhubaneshwar police found with Asalina.
Yet despite local police referring the case to Delhi's Lajpat Nagar police station for verification of the identity of the individual associated with the Aadhaar number, the Aadhaar number associated with the woman remains valid almost one year after her initial arrest, with no evidence of any action taken by the UIDAI to investigate whether a foreign national with a false name and address was able to illegally obtain an Aadhaar number, to cancel the Aadhaar, or to determine if the case is part of a larger breach of Aadhaar's enrolment processes.
This is not a one-off concern either. In the last few years, there have been a huge number of cases involving fraudulent enrolment, with a number of methods used to bypass UIDAI security measures.
Just last month, an Aadhaar enrolment officer subverted the system using a simple rubber stamp of his thumb, to set up a parallel Aadhaar center where his minions charged people to get an Aadhaar card or change details on their cards.
A security and technology expert said, "The evidence is overwhelming that the Aadhaar enrolment process is critically compromised, potentially risking national security and making a mockery of the UIDAI's claims to guarantee the identity of individuals possessing an Aadhaar number. This latest potential case shows the urgent need for a suspension of the Aadhaar program pending a thorough and transparent audit of its systems and processes and the data collected to date."