IFF Asks Govt To Disable Access To Vahan Database Due To Misuse

News reports suggested that rioters were identifying victims vehicles using the registration number database.

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World
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A charred autorickshaw in Bhagirathi Vihar in Gokalpuri, a day after the violence in north-east Delhi.
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A news report late Wednesday suggested that rioters were using registration number details from the Vahan database to identify potential victims vehicles to burn. The report has since been taken down. The Vahan database holds vehicle registration details of all vehicles in India.

Was there misuse of the vehicle registration database by rioters?
Was there misuse of the vehicle registration database by rioters?
Photo: Twitter

Now, the Internet Freedom Foundation has written to the government asking it to disable public access to the Vahan database.

While facts are being verified, it is indeed possible to easily access registration vehicle details of any car in India. The Vahan database stores the registered owner’s name, car model, engine and chassis number details, insurance details and pollution certificate details. What was seen as a convenience to users to identify vehicles could also be misused in such cases, says the IFF.

Screen grab of the Vahan portal. 
Screen grab of the Vahan portal. 
Photo: The Quint

Last year, the government earned Rs 65 crore by selling in bulk the data of crores of vehicle-owners and driving license-holders, including data on insurance and tax paid stored in its Vahan database.

On 4 July 2019, the Economic Survey of India had made a spirited case for why Indian citizens’ data must be treated as a public good as opposed to a private good. On 8 July, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari informed the Rajya Sabha that data of 25 crore vehicle registration records and 15 crore driving licence records were sold to a total of 119 organisations – 32 government and 87 private entities.

This means, besides just the Vahan database run by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the vehicle data is now easily available to a number of other entities who have incorporated into vehicle apps.

The buyers also include some of the biggest public and private sector banks and insurance companies, automobile manufacturers, financial service providers. Companies like Ola Cabs, State Bank of India (SBI), HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, United India Insurance, Reliance General Insurance, Bajaj Finance bought the data from The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways’ VAHAN database, an RTI has revealed.

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