So how much personal information are you prepared to share with the government? That’s the big question being raised as 72.4% on Indians (876 million) have already shared their biometric details including finger prints and retina scans for securing the Aadhar card. If that reminded you of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Modi government plans to do more. It plans to introduce the Human DNA Profiling Bill in this session of Parliament. Originally suggested in 2003, a draft bill was prepared in 2012. The DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid) test will be a powerful tool to identify people in criminal and civil proceedings. While the Aadhar card which has given everyone a 12-digit number will be primarily used to identify people eligible for subsidies, the DNA profiling can go a long way in identifying the population and emerge as a tool in civil and criminal cases.
Across the world, close to 60 countries have various versions of DNA databases that largely relate to data on criminals. Going by collecting DNA of everyone arrested in India, the numbers are huge. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, over 3.2 million people were arrested in 2012 alone in the country. While the costs are huge it does make sense to retain DNA information of people in an era of rising crime and terrorism. Yet a lot of people are not convincedon the safety of the data.
As part of the plan, the government plans to set up a DNA database, a DNA profiling board in Hyderabad and means to use the DNA information to resolves both criminal and civil disputes. In most countries, the DNA database is used only for criminal investigations. In India, the proposed plan is to use it to also identify victims of accidents, missing persons etc. While there is no plan to seek civilian DNA data as of now, that could happen later. While there are benefits, there are a huge number of potential issues that DNA profiling can raise. The question is whether the Modi government can effectively justify the need to for DNA profiling.