Confidentiality of Aadhar data

The Government is now insisting that Aadhar must be linked to almost any service, not just to PAN cards and bank account numbers. Cooking gas connections, ration cards, mobile phone connections – everything has to be linked to Aadhar. This insistence is contrary to what the Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta categorically told the Supreme Court, namely, that “Privacy is non-negotiable, confidentiality is non-negotiable under the Aadhar Act.” He said this when asked by the apex court whether Aadhar data might make its way into the hands of private players who might use the data for commercial purpose.
If this is the official position, then why has the Centre made it obligatory to link Aadahar cards for getting cooking gas or ration cards or mobile telephones? Gas distributors and mobile telephone service providers are all private players. Why should they know the Aadhar card numbers of their clients containing personal and confidential information of their clients? Once one gets the Aadhar card number it is far from difficult to hack the data contained there. Those accessing such information can put them to many uses, not just commercial, compromising their clients.
Making Aadhar card linkage with ration cards – which entitle the poor to food – is another irrationality. The Government seems to have realized this after three children died of hunger in Jharkhand because their families could not link their ration cards with their Aadhar numbers. And this, despite the Supreme Court’s clear directive that no citizen can be deprived of his basic right to food and shelter on the ground of his not having an Aadhar card. The Jharkhand Government has annulled this order now, after the severe criticism and outraged it faced when three deaths (including that of an eleven year old girl) occurred in Simdega, Dhanbad and Deoghar districts due to their families’ ration cards not having the Aadhar number. Now the Jharkhand Food and Public Distribution minister admits to there being “systemic deficiencies” in the system. A timely awareness could have saved three precious human lives.
The way the Aadhar card is being sought to be used raises the question why, in the first instance, the idea of an Aadhar-card-based system was originally conceived by the UPA Government. The NDA has taken it to an absurd extent. Even to board a plane or a reserved compartment  of a railway train, possessing a valid ticket is not enough; one has to have his/her Aadhar on his/her person and show it to the security staff on duty. Even a metal-detector test will not do. The Aadhar card has to be shown by a passenger who possesses a legal and perfectly valid ticket. It is time that the powers that be took a fresh look at the Aadhar business.

Friday, 27 October, 2017