Ordinary citizens reject Aadhaar, support Opt Out, Delink campaign, as govt ignores its dangers

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By Reetika Khera*

The Government recently claimed in the Supreme Court that 118 crore Indians would be hurt if the Court passed an order against Aadhaar. What this claims ignores is that people have been coerced to enroll for and “seed” or link Aadhaar to various schemes. The consequences of such coercion are terrible – the death of 11-year old Santoshi Kumari from starvation in Jharkhand, for instance, after the local ration dealer cancelled her family’s ration card for not “seeding” (or linking) it with their Aadhaar number. Every single day, we receive e-mails and SMS messages from banks and mobile service companies demanding we link Aadhaar or have our account frozen/suspended!

Even while the government made these claims in the Supreme Court, people’s campaigns against it are gaining ground, calling the bluff on the government’s claim.

  1. The claim ignores the repeated coercion thanks to which these 118 crore Indians have an Aadhaar. Many such citizens are now demanding to opt out of the Aadhaar ecosystem or delink their Aadhaar from various services
  2. Within five days of its launch, over 1,200 people in Meghalaya alone have signed a petition asking to opt out of Aadhaar altogether
  3. Rethink Aadhaar’s “Delink Aadhaar” campaign, similar to the campaign in Meghalaya, has received more than 2,300 responses from people wanting to either delink their Aadhaar or opt-out of Aadhaar altogether
  4. Calls for opting-out on Twitter alone have been seen more than two lakh times, and have gathered more than 8000 engagements in the past month
  5. Two online petitions, one demanding that mandatory linking of Aadhaar be stopped, and the one asking people to Say No to Aadhaar, have together received over 1,100 signatures
  6. Last but not least, the government’s claim ignores the dangers of a single ID with dubious security measures, now being widely exposed

The claims with respect to support for Aadhaar is similar to the government repeatedly making highly overstated claims about savings from welfare programs linked to Aadhaar, repeatedly exposed by independent researchers. Some examples of the problems faced since Aadhaar linking began:

  • Fefi Devi says she enrolled in Aadhaar but the machine does not recognise her fingerprints. After Aadhaar was made mandatory, she can no longer get her pension in the village, and has to now travel 10 kilometers spending Rs 150 for getting her Rs 500 pension
  • Babu Singh, a construction worker in Jawaja block in Ajmer, and his wife Punni Devi, who has polio, have been “locked out” of food grains because of errors in Aadhaar numbers

Here are a few people who have added their voice to Rethink Aadhaar’s campaign calling upon the Government to repeal Aadhaar Act, 2016:

  • Kannan Ramakrishnan: “I have 3 decades of experience in Banking and using Banking Technology. I have worked in countries like USA, Canada, UK, ASEAN and Australia. These countries have the legal framework (Data protection act, Privacy Act, Computer Misuse Act) have citizens have a well-defined procedure for a legal recourse in the event of a violation. The EU has recently improved its legal structure. In my personal professional opinion, I consider the Aadhar implementation Ultra Vires the very act under which it was brought into operations. The current status of linking under ‘mandatory orders’ render the scheme VOID AB INITIO. The aadhar act was poorly conceived. There was very very limited debate in Parliament and no debate in civil society. Its implementation is PATHETIC. I have raised a RTI on relevant points (sent details to Ms. Menon) but did not answers to specific questions.  Media has extensively reported SEVERAL TYPES OF HIGH SEVERITY RISK Incidents. Yet, the GOI blindly muscles ahead with no application of mind. Data has been LOST. In a country where politicians could NOT CARE LESS for human lives, the shameful response to data vulnerabilities, comes as no surprise. I am AGAINST AADHAR for extremely SOUND REASONS. I live in a DEMOCRATIC country. I have my rights. I will FIGHT for it. JAI HIND. Kannan”
  • Seerat Ahmad: “I believe that aadhar card will add to the burden of average citizens making their life more complicated and less secure too! More paperwork for everyone where’s the need?”
  • Thomas John: “Aadhar is a clear attack on Privacy. Tracking of all activities of a person is very easy. This results in easy prediction of a person’s move which is a grave risk. Manipulations, campaigns even advertisements based on Aadhar data could come up. No government or organisation can ensure absolute safety of data. Duplication could be another concern. Overall Aadhar is high risk with no reward to the public. Need to abolish this. Prevent the forcing of linking of Aadhar data which contains biometric data to banks, PAN etc. It is against a citizen’s constitutional rights. Say no to Aadhar.”
  • Vishal Meel: “Just like “half knowledge” is worst than “no knowledge at all”…Biometric ID without proper security is worst than having no ID at all. Hence, I am against the way of such mindless and forceful implementation of Aadhar.”
  • Vidyut Gore: “Aadhaar is a scam from the word go. Poorly conceived, opportunistically implemented and puts both individuals and country at risk. It has dubious connections with intelligence agencies of other countries, unaccountable registration or security. It has never been independently audited and it denies citizens the right to seek legal recourse against violations to themselves. It doesn’t get more colonial than this. Aadhaar has already done irreversible damage and the damage will only continue and grow the longer Aadhaar is allowed to exist. Aadhaar should be shut down and its perpetrators should be investigated and punished.”
  • Suresh Joshi: “My fingerprint dont match even after two biometric updates with UIDAI, Im not able to issue a SIM. In future, Driving license, Bank, Railway.Air travel, PF, Pension everything will be banned for me due to poor technology. Why dont this government ask to use other means of documents for people whose authentication fails….No Iris scanners either…..Its a tool for exclusion for me, an honest tax-payer. Im harrassed for the basic facilities with no fault of mine…..Would like to be involved in the PILs filed. against this demon….Govenment is insensitive and so is UIDAI…..”
  • Himanshu Malhotra: “If Aadhar has so many benefits than citizens should voluntarily opt for it and it should not be mandated. The very idea of threatening by the govt to opt for aadhar shows that there is more than what meets the eye”
  • Imtiyaz Palsaniya: “Constitution of India has given rights to the citizens of India against their performed duties which can’t be denied by anyone and by any means. Aadhaar has been forced into every segment in such a way that rights of the citizens are not directly accessible without having Aadhaar and upon identity authentication failure, very rights of the citizens can be denied without even a justification.”
  • A. Verghese: “Aadhar strikes at the right to privacy of the individual, and has the very real danger of being misused for selective vindictive targeting of individuals or sections of society. Remember the novel 1984 by George Orwell?! It was introduced in bad faith, without even a law to validate it ! When agitated citizens went to court, the government half heartedly rustled together an ill drafted law, and cynically pushed it through Parliament as a Money Bill, without proper debate and consultation, thus making it a statute forced upon the people of India without their consent. Therefore, the regressive law should go. The government must repeal it forthwith.”
  • Rajesh K: “1. Taking my biometrics – I dont want to part it, I have seen misuse and abuse 2. I dont know if data/Biometric is valid and whether it was modified is not notified 3. I cant sue authorities for misusing the data 4. Against absolute power”
  • Sasi Kumar: “Personally I don’t have any problem with Aadhaar but the concept of Micro-management by the Governments is too dangerous for democracy. The possible mis-utilization is way too more than the benefits it gives to the society/economy”.

*Sulaiman Mutawa Associate Chair Professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

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