Opposition to linkage of Aadhaar with Mobile phones & Bank accounts growing
Aadhaar is becoming a fiercely contested affair. As the BJP-led NDA government strives to make Aadhaar all-encompassing, resistance against it is growing ever more.
The latest to hop on the bandwagon of opponents to the mandatory linking of Aadhaar card to government schemes and various other services such as bank accounts and mobile phones is Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee.
“I will not link Aadhaar with my phone, if they want to disconnect my phone, let them,” said a defiant Mamata. She sees the issue as a political whip to lash out at her rivals who are trying to make inroads into her State. She then challenged the Aadhaar Act in the Supreme Court, but the apex court refused to entertain her plea and instead asked her to file a petition as an individual raising her grievance against the law.
While brushing off Mamata, the court questioned a State government’s right to challenge the Parliament’s mandate in a federal structure. “Tomorrow, if the Centre starts challenging the laws passed by the State, where will it lead to, ” it wondered.
Immediately then, Mamata’s party general-secretary Mohua Maitra filed a writ petition as a private citizen against the directive issued by the banks to all account holders making Aadhaar linkage mandatory by December 31, failing which the accounts would be frozen.
While accepting her petition, the court also entertained another plea, by a student, questioning a telecom department circular asking for Aadhaar-mobile phone linkage. These days, every mobile user is getting repeated reminders from Mobile service providers and banks via text messages that it is mandatory to link phone numbers and bank accounts with the 12 digit unique identification number, failing which the mobile numbers and accounts would cease to exist.
It is this badgering that is forcing many to approach the Supreme Court, whose five-judge bench is set to hear such petitions, challenging the validity of the Aadhaar Act, by this month end.
Now Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has asked the Centre to exclude the State from the decision to make Aadhaar mandatory on the ground of complex challenges in the northeast region.
Though the Centre insists that Aadhaar is fool-proof and its linkages help in weeding out ghost beneficiaries and preventing pilferage, several instances of fake Aadhaar cards and the fallout of the compulsory linkage of the identification number to government welfare schemes have come to the fore. In September, an 11-year-old girl died of starvation in Jharkhand after her family stopped getting ration as their Aadhaar was not linked to the public distribution system (PDS).
The incident made the Centre take note of the mistaken interpretation of the rules governing Aadhaar, and declare that ration cards cannot be denied for want of Aadhaar. The Centre also said that many falsehood were being spread about Aadhaar, and it was not necessary for class X and XII students to have Aadhaar cards to appear for CBSE board examinations.
But it is also a fact that the Central Ground Water Board, under the water resources ministry, had recently announced a national-level painting competition for students of classes 6, 7 and 8 and asked all participants to cite their Aadhaar/Aadhaar enrolment if they were to participate. There are also reports that Aadhaar would be made mandatory for death certificates, for air travel and sundry things. Such enthusiasm has got on to the private sector as well, with even three-year-olds requiring Addhaar for nursery admissions.
It is these fear of encroachment on ones privacy that is making many jittery.
The Centre has threatened to suspend bank accounts and disconnect mobile connections, if these are not linked to Aadhaar. But the opponents of Aadhaar insist that the mandatory linkages have little basis in these technology-savvy times. Terrorists can bypass such restrictions through facilities such as international roaming, and satellite and Internet telephony, if that is the main reason for the government to make linking of Aadhaar with mobile number compulsory.
And as has been seen from several instances of fake Aadhaar cards, biometric verification is susceptible to failures and unauthorised usage. In the last week of November, the final battle would be fought in the Supreme Court. In the meantime, several petitions and opponents to the Aadhaar Act are going to crop up.
Yashwardhan Joshi is a Journalist of long standing and commentator on issues of Administration and Social Issues.