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‘The Aadhaar Is A Monstrous, Anti-People Scheme’

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Aadhaar card also known as Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDIA) is an initiative that came into existence during Congress led UPA government and later was nurtured by the BJP led NDA. I believe that it has become the worst existing tool, which poses a threat to all who reside in this country in terms of privacy and security. Why do I say this? There are many reasons to oppose this 12 digit number scheme.

Privacy And Surveillance

The prime reason is a crippling fear that the Aadhaar card violates the right to privacy and takes our personal information for various purposes. Though, as per the Supreme Court’s judgment, privacy is a fundamental right, but allegedly, information is being used by private corporate companies to build their own databases and have access to one’s most intimate details.

Recently, an investigation by The Tribune proved that for a charge of ₹500, the data of a billion people is accessible. The UIDAI chairman, in an interview, admitted that the Aadhaar can be used to create a 360 degree profile of an individual.  Nearly everyone will have an Aadhaar number seeded in numerous databases which is accessible by the government. In this manner, permanent surveillance of all residents becomes a possibility. The government can also share user data in the interest of ‘national security’, a term which remains dangerously undefined.

Instances of lakhs of rupees being siphoned off are day to day news. Even UIDAI’s iris-scan based security was bypassed in state of Uttar Pradesh by gang of hackers. According to Medianama, a media house, the group had used biometric devices to get the fingerprint of authorized operators. They printed this scanned fingerprint on butter paper, and used UV rays on a photo polymer resin – first at 10 degrees temperature, then at 40 degrees – to create an artificial fingerprint similar to the original.

They used this log into the Aadhaar website. The note also mentions that although the UIDAI also mandates iris scan for login, the group bypassed iris (retina) based authentication by using a tampered client application. Apparently, they were selling this application to others for  ₹5,000. A single login was able to work on multiple machines, and create fake Aadhaar cards. The note also mentions that Registrars, Enrollment Agencies Supervisors, verifiers, and operators haven’t implemented new security policies instituted by the UIDAI.

Profiling Possibly For Hate Politics

The Hindu Utsav Samiti in Madhya Pradesh urged the administration to use Aadhaar cards to identify non-Hindu participants, especially Muslims, and restrict them from entering garbas. Aadhaar and citizenship should not be a subject of confusion. As we all know Aadhaar is for residents whether they are citizens or not.

The Aadhaar Act, 2016 states, “Every resident shall be entitled to obtain an aadhaar number by submitting his demographic information and biometric information by undergoing the process of enrolment.” The act further defines residency as, “An individual who has resided in India for a period or periods amounting in all to 182 days or more in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of application for enrollment.”

But then the questions arise – why has the Aadhaar enrollment stalled in Assam? And why is Aadhaar enrollment in Assam being linked to the National Register of Citizens, when Aadhaar is not related to citizenship? Aadhaar deprivation could easily be used there as tool of harassment and humiliation against the migrant population branding them as illegal. Is it not possible that people of a particular identity become easy targets of hate politics, based on exclusion from social welfares schemes via Aadhaar enrollment?

Government Overrules India’s Apex Court

A bench led by Justice V Gopala Gowda recalled an order of the top court in October 2015 whereby it clarified that “The Aadhaar card scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this court one way or the other.” But a the letter sent by the Central government to chief secretaries and administrators of all states and union territories on July 14 had stated that only online application under the National Scholarship Scheme will be accepted and “it may be noted that submission of Aadhaar is mandatory.” After saying Aadhaar is voluntary, the government made it mandatory by enacting section 139AA. I think that the Modi government has acted in haste, disrespecting the orders of the nation’s apex court.

Is This Social Exclusion?

We need to understand the depth of peril in which marginalized people of this country live in, as they are deprived of their own rights. In the states of Rajasthan and Jharkhand, millions of people are deprived of food grains every month due to technical problems related to Aadhaar Based Biometric Authentication (ABBA). For more than 50,000 people, the disability pension, elderly pension and widow pension have been stopped. Even mid day meals were restricted without Aadhaar card.

But the most chilling, and collateral damage was seen in the Simdega district of Jharkhand where a young girl died just due to unavailability of food grain as family’s ration card was not linked to Aadhaar card. The above picture shows the order of the Chief Secretary which states stoppage of supply of ration of those who do not have ration card linked to Aadhaar card. The coercive decision to make Aadhaar card mandatory is an assault on the most poor and vulnerable population of our country.

Fundamental rights like “Right to Life Liberty”, “Right to Privacy”, and Directive Principles of State Policy’s “Right to Food” are under direct attack. I think that the Aadhaar card’s approach is monstrous, one sided, pro-state, pro-establishment, anti-people and anti-poor – with an aim of monitoring and surveillance. A people’s movement is needed to fight this organized violation of our rights.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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