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Millennium Post

One card suits all? It sure does not!

Time and again, Supreme Court has batted for the general public and put a halt on draconian orders that turn it into numbers in a mine field of data. One such instance is the judgment that asks Centre to withdraw any order that requires Aadhar card to be mandatory for availing of government services. The top court has been a scourge of the Nandan Nilekani-headed Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is the body overseeing institution of Aadhar cards as a mechanism to execute an identity data bank, ostensibly to help with the registration of supplicants and distribution of services. Aadhar, which stores iris scan results and other biometric indices of persons, has been proved umpteen number of times to be nothing better than private push to mine data, which can be harnessed for surveillance purposes and used against individuals by either the State or intermediate bodies. The officious nature of Aadhar card makes it extremely vulnerable to be abused by fruadsters, who indulge in identity thefts, or by the State to incriminate individuals falsely by tampering with the stored data and slapping wrongful charges on them. The top court’s order directing Centre to withdraw any declaration indicating compulsoriness of the card, is, therefore, both a relief and a window of opportunity to debate the taxonomic statist impulse behind the institution of such a mechanism.

Insofar as Aadhar card’s efficacy in alleviating the problems faced by rural and tribal poor, for instance in ensuring that the card is distributed to people in remote hinterlands to bring them under the ambit of state record and help them gain access to government services – say in regions like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, among others – has practically yielded much less than expectations, the myth that the card is a panacea to all of our problems has been duly busted. Aadhar card has been issued to non-existent or dead people in states, while actual applicants have not received it months after they filed the papers. Naturally, the UPA government’s zeal to roll out the scheme (exemplified by their rewarding the chief architect of the plan, Nandan Nilekani, with a Congress ticket from Bangalore) is clearly linked to the surveillance instinct, which has both political and financial ramifications. Putting sensitive information of an individual in the hands of faceless bureaucracy is not only a blunder, it is also bolstering the power of an already too authoritarian a State. Given that Aadhar card is no guarantee to either preservation of individual rights and access to services, this scheme which has no constitutional validity, must be taken off from the people’s back with immediate effect. Centre should pay heed to SC as soon as possible.
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