Leader Writer: Grace Jajo
This is one of the most successful and ambitious campaign in the present generation to befool both the illiterate as well as the literate ‘educate’ population of the country with an ad of ‘Unique’. The fixation for ‘Unique’ have apparently excited people to opt for a hollow 14 digit number as their ‘Unique’ identity superseding all the existing official identities like Passport ID, Voters ID, Driving License etc.
What we fail to see is the notorious intent behind this illegal campaign to seal every residents of India with a 14 digit No. It is amazing that using a name like Nandan Nilekani former Infosys chief as UIDAI chairman could save a lot of FAQ regarding why this UID is not limited to citizens and can be availed by any residents including the visiting tourist and floating population including the ‘militants’. UIDAI has been collecting fingerprints and iris scans of all residents along with other information for Aadhaar, which is implemented since September 2010 without Parliament`s approval.
The discourse on the intrusion to one’s privacy through the convergence approach of this ‘Unique’ ID was vibrant among the intellectuals but the offer of the 14 digit No in smart card format seems to excite the poor population with fallacies of benefits. Aadhaar is an integral component of the neo-liberal reform programme introduced by UPA.
Neither has the government been explicit about the stark difference with Social Security Numbers in developed countries nor have they clarified that the ‘Unique’ ID has no entitlements along with the 14 digit no. except to extract the holders details. Issues related to access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information are imperative.
During the initial pilot project five years back and the Unique Identification Authority of India/UIDAI’s public discussion with the civil society leaders, one veteran Human Rights Activist had observed that in a country like India which still lacks a Privacy law, this procedure of recording both iris scan and ten finger prints to tap an individual’s mobility and participation in the State can be extremely intimidating and unlawful.
The Government has neither disclosed a policy of access to this data till date nor enacted a national data protection law. This immediately increases the vulnerability of the people especially in conflict zones where peoples’ proximity with both the military and militants adds to their insecurity.
Aadhaar is Voluntary yet the Government was making it mandatory for various Governmental programmes until 15 of October 2015 when the Supreme Court stated that the authorities cannot insist on a citizen to produce his Aadhaar card while extending the voluntary use of the Aadhaar card for availing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Jan-Dhan Yojana, Provident Funds and Pension Schemes. Yet the public still lacks an understanding to question the mandatory insistence on ground.
This verdict was following the previous order by the Supreme Court on 11 of August 2015 advising the Government to give wide publicity in media that Aadhaar is not mandatory to get benefits which are otherwise due to citizens.
In August 2015 the Government has decided that Aadhaar enrollment of Non-Resident Indians, Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizen of India should be eventually allowed to help them authenticate their identity digitally.
Subtle threats have punctuated this Aadhaar Project, in October2013 the Government tried to insist on Aadhaar for EPF, later again in October 2014 the Central government said it would start linking mobile SIM numbers with Aadhaar cards, in November 2014 the MoEA tried to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing Passport. The Prime Minister himself made a speech that Aadhaar card is enough to open a Jan Dan Yojana account which was later clarified. Presently in Manipur the LPG distributors have been insisting on linking with Aadhaar cards while the Government is trying to woo the public to sign up for this intruding ID.
The bizarre reality of this mad euphoria is the enrollment of 73.5 of the population as on 30 of November 2015 with Delhi leading with 106.9 percent enrollment! Interestingly while Assam and Meghalaya has less than 2 % enrollment, Manipur is leading at 52.1 %, based on the UDAI website.
Choice is a right indeed however if that choice of voluntary is not explained vividly by the State it surely amounts to another exploitation of the subjects by the State.