Activists to launch national campaign to ensure Aadhaar is not made mandatory

Independent activists came together under the banner of Rethink Aadhaar on Friday demanding that Aadhaar not be made mandatory for the entitlement of any service.

The activists, who met at the Mumbai Press Club, also claimed that enrolment and production of a unique number must be made strictly voluntary.

Raghu Godavarthi, one of the conveners of the meeting, said the event was part of a national programme and similar groups were being formed in Delhi and Bangalore. Mr. Godavarthi said, “Our goal is to expose the flaws in the Aadhaar project in the lead up to the Supreme Court hearing scheduled for January 17.”

The speakers included the first petitioners in the case: Vickram Crishna, Dr. G. Nagarjuna and Kamayani Bali Mahabal. They highlighted issues such as the denial of basic entitlements and services, coercive tactics to ensure enrolment, technological issues with the project. The project has been riddled with problems in fingerprint and retinal scans, security of data, potential for surveillance and the lack of transparency and grievance redress system.

“Aadhaar is entering its ninth year and yet it is being called a project that is in its infancy,” said Mr. Godavarthi. He added that media and citizens have not been very successful in tracking Aadhaar’s failure. “We feel that Aadhaar in its current form is unconstitutional and flawed by design. The problems linked to the programme have expanded with its expansion.”

Activist Dr. Nagarjuna said the core issue is the centralisation of power, which goes against the idea of democracy. He said, “It is very important to fight together against this crime that is being committed under the name of social justice. It is all a lie. There is potential for a leakage in information every time we link it some agency.”

Ms. Kamayani Mahabal, who filed a petition in the Supreme Court, said, “The gender biases within the system came out only after I filed the petition. There have been several instances where women have been denied family planning options, as they did not posses an Aadhaar card. Linking of services to the project has been criticised by all.”

Welfare researcher Sakina Dhorajiwala narrated three cases from Jharkhand where people had starved to death as they were denied rations because their Aadhaar card was not linked to the Public Distribution System.

Krishnakant Mane, who is visually impaired, said, “My impairment is due to a faulty retina and hence I have been denied an Aadhaar card.” He said people with disabilities faced difficulties in obtaining an Aadhaar card.

Mr. Mane said, “I have seen cases where people who have been affected by leprosy have been denied a card as their fingerprints could not be read. Are they not eligible for such public services?”