On Aadhaar, SC offers temporary relief, but suffering won't end
The only way to end the UID tyranny is to throw it out.
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Hours after the Supreme Court announced there was no longer a deadline to link Aadhaar with mobile phone numbers or bank accounts, I was threatened by my bank with dire consequences for failing to link my account with this 12-digit number. The bank categorically told me the "operations in your account shall cease wef 1st April 2018" because I have not yet submitted my Aadhaar number.
This is as dire a warning as it gets. All my savings, which happen to be meagre, are parked in this account. This is the account I use to pay my credit card bills. This is the account in which I get my salary. If this account ceases to exist, my whole life will be put on indefinite pause. This warning, hence, is virtually holding a citizen at gunpoint and forcing him to link comply. And it is contrary to the Supreme Court's latest order.
This also shows that irrespective of the top court's diktat, the people of India will continue to suffer the anarchy of Aadhaar. They will continue to face the bureaucracy that Aadhaar has brought in, because of late its tentacles have spread so wide and far that a mere interim order from Supreme Court is not going to offer any relief, particularly when the order is short on specifics. The only bits that can be ascertained with clarity are that the deadline to link Aadhaar with mobile phone numbers and bank accounts has been extended and that, at the moment, the government can't make Aadhaar mandatory for Tatkal passports. On every other matter, chaos and confusion will reign supreme, as witnessed in the past two years.
It is also clear the Aadhaar-linking deadline for services covered under Section 7 of Aadhaar Act, including key social entitlements, remains March 31.
This is not the first interim order by the Supreme Court on Aadhaar. Earlier, the court had said that the UID can't be made mandatory in any aspect of our lives — not even for government subsidies. But the government went ahead irrespective of the order and made it mandatory for almost everything — its defence being that the Supreme Court order was no longer in force because it came before Aadhaar Act 2016.
It is clear the Aadhaar-linking deadline for services covered under Section 7 of Aadhaar Act, including key social entitlements, remains March 31.
The lessons from the way the government has vehemently pushed Aadhaar are clear: just because the court has done away with the March 31 deadline, Aadhaar is not going to go away. It has assumed a life of its own, and seemingly exists beyond the laws and norms that otherwise govern the life of Indians. Nearly every government department of note has issued directives to make Aadhaar at best the preferred identity document, at worst a mandatory document for various services. Seeing the government push for Aadhaar even private entities began pushing for it.
Aadhaar is required for marriage certificates, for school admission, for birth certificates, for medical treatment, for insurance, for registering vehicles or property, for opening bank accounts, for using e-wallets and so on and so forth. It has become such an integral part of the life, and not in a good way, that courier companies ask for it before they can deliver a package, that guards in residential societies insist people show their Aadhaar cards if they are visiting to meet their friends and relatives. There are pimps in Goa who have asked customers for copies of Aadhaar before they can connect them to sex workers. It's madness! And this madness will continue because despite the court's interim order, chaos and confusion will not be abated.
When your relative has taken ill and needs to be admitted to the ICU, it is impossible to argue with hospital staff or refuse when asked for Aadhaar details citing the Supreme Court's interim order.
When you need to urgently register an FIR, it is impossible to tell adamant police officials that you won't share your Aadhaar details because the Supreme Court has passed an interim order. Individuals, and government officials, won't listen to you. They will still insist on Aadhaar and the Supreme Court won't be able to help you at 1am — after midnight — when you need emergency treatment at a hospital.
The only way to end the Aadhaar tyranny is to throw it out. Even if it has to exist, it should exist for the sole purpose of identifying beneficiaries — and without surveillance caveats — for government subsidies. But that hasn't happened with today's Supreme Court order. That may happen with the final one. Until then, you will continue to live under the rule of Aadhaar.