There are many casualties and deaths due to lack of documents with poor people of this country. Many children died of having no food due to non-submission of Aadhaar card deprived them of ration, medical facility, accommodation and education. Finally, the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh government how Aadhaar cards of the urban homeless people were being made. The bench said this while hearing a matter relating to providing shelter to the urban homeless across the country. “If a person is homeless, how he is described in the Aadhaar card,” the bench asked the UP govt. The bench also asked whether such homeless people who do not have Aadhaar “do not exist for the Union of India or the Uttar Pradesh government” and will they not be accommodated in shelter homes.
Earlier the state government’s women and child development department has asked NGOs to support the process of enrolment for the biometrics-based identity number that will enable access to social entitlements. After it received a communication from the Unique Identification Authority of India in February regarding enrolment for UID cards for orphan children, the department wrote to NGOs registered with the state and those running childcare institutions. The order also applies to street children. This information came through at a consultation on government schemes for underprivileged children organised at the India International Centre annexe. Senior officials from the department confirmed that the direction applies to all vulnerable children, not just those in institutional care. Now, NGOs working with children at railway stations and on the streets can endorse them at the time of enrolment. Copies of the letter from the UIDAI to the state on the enrolment process were circulated among stakeholders, mostly NGOs, Child Welfare Committee members, researchers and networks working with children in vulnerable circumstances at the consultation. But all these remained in files and papers and no NGO or government ever tried to solve these issues. The street children and people are yet to be given solution for Aadhaar card; they are going through the cruel state of responses.
As it not easy for government to provide shelter for each homeless, moreover the homeless or nomads don’t have any permanent residence to live. They wander from place to place for money and food; it is impossible to make their mind and ask them to stay at a particular place. So what can we do? UIDAI should mention only city name on the Aadhaar card and if the city is metropolitan then it can be divided into different zones. One special feature UIDAI can also add here is that adding ‘reference’ on their Aadhaar card. There are many possible ways to address these crucial issues, but government and authorities lack will.
The big question is — one who do not want Aadhaar card, does it mean he/she don’t exist when they have used voter ID or driving license or passport that they have used to get mobile or bank accounts so far? Why should any citizen risk his privacy and help government or police to trace 0.1 per cent criminals? Why should everyone get Aadhaar and link them to all nonsense that government forces us to? It’s easy for government or officials to delete Aadhaar from the database, literally deleting him from existing.
Though Aadhaar is one of the most successful high-tech Congress government initiated program in India, but when BJP was in opposition there was strong resistance concerning data security and privacy. But as the program picked up by BJP government, now they boast of it. Recent figures indicate that UIDAI managed to register almost 1 billion people and issued Aadhaar card. Total cost of UIDAI was said to be around Rs 6000 crores and it was already recovered in the form of savings from leakages contained in first year of implementing DBT of LPG Subsidy.
The premise of Aadhaar is that it’s the centralised database of citizen’s information.
This includes identity information (photograph, name, etc.), demographic information (address, contact details, etc.) and core biometric information (fingerprint scan, iris scan, etc.). The database is supposed to help streamline the functioning of various services and brings India into the digital age by enabling paperless transactions and authentication. Concern for the Dignity of the Individual is part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution of India. It is likely that a significant proportion of the homeless would be old and infirm. Unless the issue raised by the Court is addressed satisfactorily without detriment to the dignity of the individual, governance protocols requiring linking of Aadhaar particulars for various services would tend to exclude many rather than include all in the reach of good governance measures. Purportedly, Aadhaar is in itself innocuous. Any data that is collected in the name of Aadhaar, the government and any number of unknown entities are likely to already have them all.
All Aadhaar claims to be doing is linking all your disparate government-issued documents to one ID and number, streamlining the document handling and identification processes. Creating an Aadhaar ecosystem so to speak, which is the reason it’s being looked at with caution. The real problem with Aadhaar is three-fold. First, as secure as the Aadhaar database itself is claimed to be, the recent leaks of data have shown that the government entities haven’t adequately trained their employees or third parties on the handling of the private data that they collect. Why else would government organisations leave excel sheets filled to the brim with personal data just lying around?
The most recent example is the time when Indian cricketer MS Dhoni was getting himself registered for Aadhaar. The agency handling his application process tweeted out a photo of Dhoni’s application page. His wife Sakshi Dhoni was naturally annoyed and brought this to the notice of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who promptly blacklisted the agency for 10 years. Dhoni is a popular personality, but what happens if someone like you or me has his or her data put out on a public platform like this? The commoners have their issues and celebrities have their privacy concerns. How the question is homeless.
(This is the first part of the editorial and the remaining portion will continue tomorrow)
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