No Country For Those Without An Aadhaar? Questions That Still Remain Unanswered

Posted by Gokul Balu in Politics, Society
June 14, 2017

Quite frankly, it is nothing short of a confusion. It is difficult to differentiate cause from effect because the outcome seems quite muddled up under half-baked assertions and nuances of social anxieties. The debate on the depth and viability of Aadhaar is ongoing. What remains are questions. Questions that need one definite answer.

No Country For Non-Aadhaar Holders?

Obviously, the title is stolen from a famous Hollywood movie but what better way to address the theme than with this slightly modified title? The honourable Government of India has decided to finally put an ultimatum to the never ending fiasco that is Aadhaar. Launched during the reign of the centrophilic Congress party in the year 2009 and given form and flesh by UIDAI headed by Nandan Nilekani, this was an idea which was being conceived in 2000. The objective was crystal clear, to present an identification proof which will bypass the plethora of identification documents present in our country. This alone will act as a primary identification validating a person as the rightful citizen of the country.

The concept is commendable as this will finally provide one key identification document which will fulfil the role of many. As the Aadhar website lays out, “Aadhaar numbers will eventually serve as the basis for a database with which disadvantaged Indian residents can access services that have been denied to them due to lack of identification documents.”

The process of registration rolled on from the year 2012. I still remember the chaos which followed as everyone was confused regarding the need for this new document. Many refused to wait in long queues to get their biometrics taken and I remember that the E-disha and Akshaya centres in different states in India acted as stations to process this document. We were all issued printed documents containing temporary numbers and were told that we will get the real card by post. Quite frankly, I still know many who still have not their valid official copies despite following up.

The document was declared as a proof of identification for availing public sector benefits. The program seemed like a hit-and-miss at first. Personally, the Aadhaar system proved to be a hindrance many times while availing services. Luckily, after many trials, I received mine, though I never really appreciated the photography skills on the card.

Among common households, Aadhaar became a thing to be considered, yet again, with the onset of availing LPG subsidies. The incoming BJP government stressed the need for linking Aadhaar with bank accounts belonging to the consumer to avail benefits.

A new inflow of data regarding the people of this country (made possible through an extensive census study) helped shift the project’s perception from fraudulent to feasible, after the 2014 elections.

This implementation led to an increase in the flow of subscribers for Aadhaar. Gradually, you could see its presence expanding over many domains; sometimes optional and sometimes mandatory, through subtle methods.

The big flaw in the system which presented itself as the glaring hole of data security really shook up the system’s credibility. Sakshi Dhoni’s complaint, regarding her husband’s private data breach,  highlighted the need amongst citizens to finally ask questions about private data security.

In a turn of events, the new declaration from the government states that every individual who wishes to avail social benefits must be enrolled for Aadhaar before June 30, 2017. The declaration relaxes the norms for people whose enrolment facilities are not in place. It is not a country for the ones who don’t hold an Aadhar card because every ration, service, and subsidy can only be availed once the consumer has an Aadhar in hand. This is the bottom line.

The unique identification scheme has been under scrutiny for everything from its enrolment process to the half-baked privacy norms which are in place – but if it provides ease of service provision as promised, then it is definitely a welcome move. There is the need for an answer. An answer to all these questions and an answer that may not be conclusive, but at least inclusive for all.