Thursday, September 23, 2021
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Govt using Aadhaar as surveillance tool

Despite Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)’s clarification that Aadhaar is for identification and it is not a profiling tool, citizens continue to remain apprehensive about data privacy and security. Ever since the Modi government had made Aadhaar mandatory for opening bank accounts, filing income tax returns, availing scholarships and Public Distribution System (PDS) subsidy people have been raising their concerns about misuse of their personal information and biometrics. Many of them had even filed petition with the Supreme Court against the compulsory imposition of Aadhaar by the government.

The Modi government might be keen to go ahead with the Digital India policy but India doesn’t have a full proof data security law to safeguard citizens’ privacy online. Many advanced nations like US, UK, France, New Zealand and Australia already have passed privacy laws to secure online data being misused. The Aadhaar Act permits UIDAI to gather biometric information beyond iris and finger prints. Citizens are also worried that Aadhaar is being used as a surveillance tool instead of an e-governance technology.

NCP MLA Hemant Takle said that many people, who still don’t possess Aadhaar card, are undergoing severe hardships to avail government subsidies and medical aid. He said, “The main issue with Aadhaar is its credibility and whenever a new reform comes that includes personal data of citizens, the government should be very careful in such cases. Aadhaar must have adequate protective mechanism to ensure that data is not leaked and its misuse is 100 per cent ruled out.”

“Primarily, the idea of Aadhaar was that government’s subsidies can reach beneficiaries without any loopholes and system delays. But by making Aadhaar card  mandatory for everything, the government is trying to make it a tool to intrude citizens’ privacy,” he added.

Once Aadhaar Data is shared it can easily be reused for other purposes. According to UIDAI, around 210 government departments had already published citizens’ Aadhaar numbers and personal information online. The government has been allowing private entities to use Aadhaar information thereby comprising citizen’s privacy. Information can only be shared with other agencies if citizens have given their consent to share data during enrolment process.

Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam criticised the Modi government for using Aadhaar as a tool to encroach citizens’ privacy. He said, “The purpose to bring Aadhaar was to bring a common identification for Indian citizens. If Aadhaar is being linked to PAN card and bank account, it is not hard to understand that my data is being leaked to public. Departments like Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax have all the rights to get access to citizens’ personal details in case of malpractices, but why should our data remain with government and UIDAI? All the claims made by UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey about data protection are baseless. By compulsorily imposing Aadhaar for availing all services just goes to show the intention of the government.”

Citizens have been facing problems while authenticating their identity online as biometric machine fails to recognise their finger prints. Senior citizens have been the worst hit as their finger prints have faded with old age and machine doesn’t authenticate them. Many people have been denied ration for their inability to provide Aadhaar numbers. Last year a 11-year-old girl had died in Simdega district of Jharkhand due to starvation as her family’s ration card was cancelled as it was not seeded with Aadhaar. Many names from various families have also been struck off from public distribution list as their ration cards were not linked to Aadhaar.

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