Does Supreme Court judgment on Aadhar will maintain privacy of users?

The Supreme Court in its forward looking judgment few days back barred the private entities and government from using the data on Aadhar for any other purpose but to give subsidies and other social scheme benefits. The judgment is indeed important but its applicability is for tomorrow. But what happrns today with all the data that has been already furnished to these entities? The urban Indian was hastily forced by the government violating the Supreme Court order of 2015 to link Aadhar with bank account, as also telephone services like JIO made it compulsory to furnish Aadhar to get sim cards etc.

So today can the data that has been furnished be used against us? It is not a surprise that telephone data is used to monitor our conversation, our bank data can be used by bankers for selling it to private individuals for other purposes. The government can itself use the data to track the movement of political rivals, monitor citizens who have contrary opinion on various issues etc. So we are coming gradually under surveillance and repression by the government? This is not just the authors opinion there is enough evidence in the thought process of the present government.

It was during the UPA government when the Aadhar project was actually launched the BJP had made an accusation of surveillance. None other than the present National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval who has been a ‘Spy’ in an interview in 2009 had stated “with this system, people can be located anywhere because all databases will be connected.” He further stated that “Aadhar is projected as development oriented because people will be otherwise unwilling to give out their data for lack of privacy”. So Doval in 2009 was criticizing the project stating the inevitable what we are fearing today.

How do we not know that the data for surveillance which is cloaked in giving benefits is not being used to watch us? The situation would be something that took place in Soviet Russia or in present China where citizen’s movement is marked and phones are tapped so that the state can quell any dissent or check anybody who raises their voice against state’s own wrongdoing. This has led to sudden disappearance of many famed individuals – the latest being disappearance of famous Chinese actress Fan Bingbing last week.

The birth if Aadhar came after the Kargil War in 2001 under the Vajpayee government wherein securing our borders from infiltration was felt as the need of the hour. The Group of Ministers in 2001 had mooted the idea stating “Illegal migration has assumed serious proportions. There should be compulsory registration of citizens and non citizens in living in India. All Indian citizens should be given Multi Purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) and non citizens should be issued identity cards of a different colour so that if they come in the country for job opportunities they cannot avail of any other benefits”.

So today is Aadhar being used to differentiate between citizens and non citizens? Certainly not in Assam which has started the exercises but have to rely on National Register of Citizens and not Aadhar. As for the state surveillance it remains a clear and a present danger for us today, more so because those who doubted are now in power. The enrollment for children has stopped today but tomorrow they will as adults enroll thereby increasing the ambit of surveillance. So today we are just a number many of us would become marked numbers soon.

(By Bhagyashree Pande, views expressed are personal)

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