The 12 digit Aadhaar number granted to every Indian citizen has been gaining limelight and media traction following the Supreme Court verdict. The verdict of 2018 allows the Government to mandate the unique identity number to access subsidies and welfare schemes under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016. The main focus is on privacy, surveillance and the benefits citizens will eventually receive through this linkage. The silver lining is that the impact Aadhaar will have on children is often ignored. Since children constitute 39% of the population, weighing the pros and cons is essential.
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has come up with a blue-coloured Aadhaar card known as Baal Aadhar for children below five years of age. Once they are five, they will be required to do another mandatory biometric update. This helps to easily identify children below five years and also consider revision of biometrics to reduce discrepancies .
A child’s school ID makes for an easy gateway to have an Aadhaar number. Hence, it becomes mandatory for parents to enrol their children in schools to benefit from many welfare schemes.
Aadhaar is mandatory to avail welfare schemes such as the mid-day meal but linkage of Aadhaar to mid-day meals hasn’t actually achieved its motive. The children may benefit from these schemes upto a certain point, but it fails to make a long term impact.
A birth certificate is mandatory for the Aadhaar application. Children born in remote areas lack basic infrastructure and don’t receive proper birth certificates. This means they cannot avail the welfare schemes.
On one hand, doing a biometric scan of the children and linking it with Aadhaar helps to trace children – so that they can reunite with their parents in the event of trafficking. This facilitates quick identification and begins the rehabilitation process sooner – so that they can recover from the trauma and continue to live a healthy life. But on the other hand, Aadhaar information can also be misused since it contains all the essential details of the citizens.
All kinds of data leaks can be a threat to the privacy and security of children. Agents of trafficking can trace identities and whereabouts of children, engage them in inhuman practices and deprive them of a safe childhood.
According to a recent study, 6 out of every 10 missing children can’t be traced. A majority of the untraceable children are trafficked and forced to beg on streets. Children from various states are brought to big cities by trafficking gangs to resort to tasks like begging. Since these children are sold and kidnapped at a very young age, they don’t know their roots. To avoid such cases having an Aadhaar number that is linked with their parents should be mandatory at birth. This helps the centre to keep a check and monitor the location of these children.
Aadhaar card can be considered as an age proof under the Juvenile Justice Act. The Act ensures the right to privacy and confidentiality – to give juveniles a fresh start.
But Aadhaar retains the data of children for a period of 7 years. Therefore, when they finish serving their punishment and try to live a normal life by either working or studying, their history prevents them from doing so. Since their activities can be traced with Aadhaar, their prospects reduce.
Thus, crimes committed by juveniles will continue to haunt them as they will be stigmatised in society. If not impossible, recovery and redemption of such children will be difficult. Therefore, when we consider the life juveniles expect to lead after their punishment, Aadhaar becomes an obstacle in their attempt to move on.
Aadhaar gives an identity to the child and acts as a birth and address proof once made – to prevent identity fraud. It becomes easier to apply for passports and avail the government benefits. Linkage of Aadhaar with school admission is not mandatory, but it helps to ensure that there are no dropouts. The government will also understand the reach of their schemes and the areas that need more focus. Linking children from vulnerable situations to existing government schemes creates a protective mechanism for survivors of exploitation.
Overall, Aadhaar has its own set of advantages and if utilised in an apt manner, Aadhaar will prove to be an asset for children.