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Will error-free Aadhaar data remain a fantasy?

Supreme Court’s verdict on the Aadhaar on Wednesday is seen as a partial relief to the central government as the apex court has upheld the Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid while knocking down the previous government order on making it mandatory for opening a bank account, getting mobile connections, and school admission. However, the Supreme Court has given consent to the linking of Aadhaar with Permanent Account Number (PAN), which is mandatory for the filing of Income Tax Return (ITR).

The unique 12-digit identification number or Aadhaar is issued to individuals by the UIDAI that stores biometrics data obtained from iris and fingerprint scans. A five-judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justice Ashok Bhushan announced the verdict and the bench has struck down the Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act banning the permit to share data with private entities. The judgement will now stop the private bodies like telecom companies, e-commerce firms to ask for any biometric or other data from the consumers for their services.

While the nation has got answers to all its queries around the much-debated Aadhaar Act, the fuss and knottiness are still vibrant concerning incorrect and inaccurate data or information on millions of Aadhaar cards. Poles apart date of birth on an individual’s Aadhaar card as compared to his/her PAN or Voter ID card, wrong spelling, wrong address or misplaced/wrong father’s and mother’s name — all these are a few of many major errors. Moreover, Google search results like “How to correct your Aadhaar data” are accessible to the tech-savvy part of the society — but, what about the millions of poor, illiterate, helpless people who are deprived of the government schemes due to faulty Aadhaar cards given to them, who are called frauds by the administration for the same — they run from door to door of the administrator’s corridor and break down at day end with no solution to their problems.

Cyber Law Expert Puneet Bhasin spoke to Afternoon Voice and agreed that there’s a need to create an awareness among the citizens regarding how to rectify the errors in their Aadhaar cards. He further praised the SC order saying, “The remarkable Supreme Court judgement on Wednesday will shield the unique biometric identification program from being a burning political issue. The apex court has effectively upheld the right to privacy of a citizen through its judgement.”

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant stated, “Congress welcomes the SC judgement. BJP government wanted to use citizens’ Aadhaar details for keeping surveillance on common people while Congress introduced Aadhaar to benefit the deprived class.” He further said, “After Wednesday’s judgement, it is clear that BJP government and its ministers illegally made Aadhaar mandatory. Why does the government want to interfere in the personal lives of the citizens? Even the farmers had to face multiple difficulties to become eligible under the loan waiver scheme due to errors in the biometric data stored in the system.”

With the Supreme Court’s order that came after 38 days of hearing the petitions starting from January 17, 2018, authenticating the Aadhaar for the government welfare schemes, government’s lackadaisical and irresponsible attitude towards rectifying the incorrect data issue comes under the scanner. “We welcome Aadhaar verdict, India can’t afford to be a tech laggard,” expressed Arun Jaitley. However, aside from welcoming the verdict, will they anytime soon become serious about giving some relief to the citizens by making the Aadhaar a faultless and unerring unique identification system?

BJP MLA Atul Save expressed, “Aadhaar cards had many errors in its initial days in the system; however, now, the government is working on its corrections. We respect the verdict of the Supreme Court, though we believe that Aadhaar number should be linked to all the services. We can suggest the government to add a government stamp on those inaccurate Aadhaar cards to end the fuss around incorrect data printed on them.”

It’s high time that the Modi-led central government must understand that only announcing schemes are not enough for the welfare of the needful and the helpless citizens (illiterate, senior citizens, etc.) of this country. To get the fruitful outcome (proper distribution of welfare schemes as believed by the government) from Aadhaar enrolment, the government must first act earnestly to ensure accurate data entry in each and every citizen’s account. Social welfare policy analysts believe that since the massive range of mistakes in millions of Aadhaar accounts are committed by the Aadhaar enrolment officials, making the correction process a doorstep service can also be a helpful rectifying step.

When AV spoke to Girish Patki, a Mulund resident, he said, “The recent SC verdict has exposed the central government who has harassed the common people so far asking them to link Aadhaar with various services. The BJP government is not at all serious about the collection of proper data from the citizens for the Aadhaar system.”

“The uneducated and the helpless citizens had to bear more harassment when they requested rectification of the errors in their Aadhaar cards. I believe that the government must validate the Ration Card as the only proof for all purposes,” he added.


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