Tuesday, March 28, 2017
NEW DELHI: In yet another persistent push to literally shovel the Aadhaar Card into Indian identity, it’s now mandatory for poor women to have it in order to procure free cooking gas. Interestingly, even though the Supreme Court had clarified that Aadhaar Card is not mandatory for the mid may meal, the government was still authoritative. As if this new syndrome had not percolated enough, even IRCTC mentioned that in the coming plan for the year 2017-2018, only travelers with Aadhaar Card would be able to book tickets online. Along with National Social Assistance Programme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, public distribution scheme, LPG Subsidies and Jan Dhan Yojana, the government is aggressively going to make Aadhaar Card a mandatory official necessity.
So, how did this idea of Aadhaar card promulgate suddenly? Well, it was everything but not sudden. Since 1999, after the Kargil War, the Kargil Review Committee that was formed to assess the national security in India believed for the urgent need of identity cards to be issued particularly to villagers abiding in the border areas and terrorism inflicted zones. Only later by 2001, the recommendation for this unique ID card was accepted under the supervision of L.K. Advani, who later proposed the Citizen Amendment Bill in 2003 in the Lok Sabha. In 2009, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was established under the Niti Aayog or Planning Commission.
Nandan Nilekani, an ex-CEO from Infosys was appointed as the Chairman for UIDAI, a position which is equivalent to that of a Cabinet Minister. It was only later in April 2010 when Nilekani coined the term ‘Aadhaar’ and launched the logo and brand name for this unique identity card. In spite of the stalled legislative procedures, struggles and conjectures regarding this concept, Nilekani continued to strategize. Today, 91.7% of the Indian population has become a part of the Aadhaar Generation.
But amidst all of this, the authoritative order to have an Aadhaar Card reveals one subtle yet simple fact which deals with our identity as Indian citizens. In spite of having Voter-ID Card, Ration Card, Passport, Driving License, PAN Card and others, our identity is still an abstract concept. The lack of transparency, functionality and structuring in the government’s administration suggests how fragile and vulnerable our identities have become. Though, fortunately, we unlike other conflict-prone states, do have the right to identity sanctified by a piece of official paper, then why does it disturb us so much? Yes, it is the largest project, too big to fail, for biometric procession and identity verification in the world, yet it is quite disturbing.
To start with, the idea of privacy has now become a foreign, alien and aligning concept. In fact, it is just the opposite of the Right to Information Act. The government would not have each and every single detail about the citizen’s life, carefully monitored and scrutinized. The idea that it will not be used against one is an aberrant one. Well, quite recently, Suvidhaa Infoserve, Axis Bank Ltd and eMudhra had breached the privacy of Aadhaar card and hacked it, later leading to a cyber crime complaint against them. They were charged with impersonation and unauthorized authentication, but the fact that this data was easily available to them does raise doubts. So, how will the government prevent the misuse of our critical information is still ambiguous.
Another issue which haunts the enrollment for Aadhaar card is an instance in New Delhi. Against the total population of the city which amounts to 17.7 million, surprisingly 19.2 million Aadhaar cards were issued. So, how would the government schemes function if the leakage is too apparent and cannot be weeded out. The duplicity of Aadhar Card is falling prey to its own concept, a reality which is hidden from the Indian citizens.
In reality, the entire Aadhaar generation would be in future victims to government scrutiny, harassment and privacy threat, in a way that cannot be conceived as of now. It’s a manipulation of democracy to its very core, where individual privacy is bargained for an official identity, which it itself is a very contested and arbitrary concept.