Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do you support universal adoption of Aadhar card? When Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled AGAINST it?


There are reasons why the developed countries of the world have opted out of UID for their citizens. It is foolish to think we're smarter than everybody else. It is especially foolish to not bother doing any homework on your end and then say "But what's the problem, why are you opposed to Aadhar? It is good only!".


On 23 February 2015, I accompanied two young persons applying to have their marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act before the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) in Delhi. They were told that the system would not accept their application without their Aadhaar enrolment ID. They categorically refused to comply, and cited the orders of the Supreme Court. They proposed going to court to get a direction issued to the ADM. The ADM then relented and that led to the acceptance of their application – a series of dots (….) in the enrolment ID column did the trick. The form, though, remains unchanged.

On 25 February, 2015, the Ministry of Rural Development sent out a letter about the government's decision that wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) would only be paid through direct cash transfer, and that all states "are to seed the Aadhaar numbers of the MGNREGA beneficiaries and enrol the MGNREGA beneficiaries who have not yet got enrolled for Aadhaar." Jean Dreze reports from the field that those not enrolled are not being given job cards. There has been no revision of these circulars.

On 3 March, 2015, a Maharashtra Cabinet decision is recorded as having taken the "revolutionary decision to link ration cards and FPSs with biometric database and Aadhaar." The same day, the Election Commission announced a National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Program (NERPAP) to be done by linking the Aadhaar database with the electoral database to be completed by 15 August, 2015.

The most immediate and proximate consequence was of exclusion – where people not enrolled on the UID database may be denied a service because they did not have an Aadhaar number. Those not enrolled for any reason, ranging from those unable to get on to the database to those not wanting to, and those whose biometrics may not work because of the nature of their work – such as manual labor or those working with chemicals – or because of age, could find themselves deprived of their entitlements. There was also in the background the constant iteration of the UIDAI that enrolment was voluntary and not mandatory.

So, on September 23, 2013, the court issued an interim order, till the case could be finally decided, that "no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card", even where some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory.
On March 16, 2015, when counsel for the petitioners expressed his concern that governments were pushing ahead with enrolment so they could present the court with a fait accompli – that they already have large numbers on the database and so the project should be allowed to go on – the court said during the hearing that that would not hold weight with them.

In the UK, when their identity scheme was abandoned for being "intrusive, bullying and ineffective," the database had to be dismantled; that was the only way to respect the law and to protect citizens from a surveillance state.

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