Opt Out, Delink Aadhaar campaign picks up across India, independent researchers collect testimonies opposing it

Rethink Aadhaar, which has begun a non-partisan Opt Out, Delink campaign, has claimed that within a short span of less than a week, it has received huge support across India, with “calls for opting-out on Twitter alone having seen more than two lakh times”.

Pointing out that in the last five days of its launch, even in Meghalaya, “over 1,200 people have signed a petition asking to opt out of aadhaar altogether”, Reetika Khera, one of the prominent campaigners with Rethink Aadhaar, says in an email alert that the organization has received more than 2,300 individual responses from people wanting to either delink their aadhaar or opt-out of aadhaar altogether.

There are “two online petitions, one demanding that mandatory linking of aadhaar be stopped, and the one asking people to Say No to aadhaar, have together received over 1,100 signatures”, Khera, who is associate professor with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, says.

Contradicting the Government of India claim in the Supreme Court that 118 crore Indians would be “hurt” if the court passed an order against aadhaar, Khera says, “What this claim ignores is that people have been coerced to enroll for and ‘seed’ or link aadhaar to various schemes.”

“The consequences of such coercion are terrible — the death of 11-year old Santoshi Kumari from starvation in Jharkhand, for instance, after the local ration dealer cancelled her family’s ration card for not “seeding” (or linking) it with their aadhaar number”, she says, adding, “Every single day, we receive e-mails and SMS messages from banks and mobile service companies demanding we link aadhaar or have our account frozen/suspended.”

Referring to “independent researchers”, who have “exposed” aadhaar, Khera quotes two examples of how things have changed for the poor.

Thus, Fefi Devi enrolled in adhaar but the machine does not recognise her fingerprints. After aadhaar was made mandatory, she can no longer get her pension in the village, and has to now travel 10 kilometers spending Rs 150 for getting her Rs 500 pension.

The second example is that of Babu Singh, “a construction worker in Jawaja block in Ajmer, and his wife Punni Devi, who has polio, have been ‘locked out’ of food grains because of errors in aadhaar numbers.”

Educated citizens, according to her, are also starting to oppose aadhaar on various grounds, and have been sending their reactions. Thus, Kannan Ramakrishnan has been quoted as saying, “I have 3 decades of experience in banking and using banking technology. I have worked in countries like USA, Canada, UK, ASEAN and Australia.”

According to Ramakrishnan, “These countries have the legal framework (Data protection act, Privacy Act, Computer Misuse Act), citizens have a well-defined procedure for a legal recourse in the event of a violation.” As for the European Union (EU), he adds, it has “recently improved its legal structure.”

Given this framework, he says, his personal professional opinion is that “the aadhaar Act was poorly conceived. There was very limited debate in Parliament and no debate in civil society. Its implementation is pathetic… In a country where politicians could not care less for human lives, the shameful response to data vulnerabilities, comes as no surprise.”

Seerat Ahmad says aadhaar “will add to the burden of average citizens making their life more complicated and less secure.”

According to Thomas John, “aadhaar is a clear attack on privacy. Tracking of all activities of a person is very easy. This results is easy prediction of a person’s move which is a grave risk.”
Vishal Meel notes: “Just like half knowledge is worse than no knowledge at all, biometric ID without proper security is worse than having no ID at all. Hence, I am against the way of such mindless and forceful implementation of aadhaar.”

Says Vidyut Gore, “aadhaar is a scam from the word go. Poorly conceived, opportunistically implemented and puts both individuals and country at risk. It has dubious connections with intelligence agencies of other countries, unaccountable registration or security. It has never been independently audited.”

Adds Suresh Joshi, “My fingerprints don’t match even after two biometric updates with UIDAI, I’m not able to issue a SIM. In future, driving license, bank, railway, air travel, PF, pension everything will be banned for me due to poor technology. Why doesn’t this government ask to use other means of documents for people whose authentication fails?”