The title can be simplified to ask if Aadhaar is slavery or not but this is not how our moderator Charles Assisi decided to put the topic into discussion, he said that when Henry Ford created a motorcar, the pertinent question was ‘do you create a motorcar first or do you create roads first?’.
Mr.Jairam Ramesh, former Minister of Rural Development, answered directly and said that he was part of the team which initially conceptualised Aadhaar. It was basically used to establish one’s identity. This meant Aadhaar’s work was limited to only tell you who you were and not to tell you what benefits you were entitled to. It was a technological tool to help government cut out duplication but everything changed after 2014 (when BJP came into power) to which the moderator questioned his pro-aadhaar stand in 2009 and Jairam Ramesh explained it as a beginning and not as a solution to solve exclusion errors of government schemes. To quote him “I believed in a different Aadhaar which was Aadhaar 1.0’’.
Commenting on the technology behind Aadhaar, Mr.Arun Maira who was closely linked with the issue, initially said that Aadhaar is a fine technology and like any other technology, this too had its own loopholes and if one looks at the global picture everyone is facing the backlashes of technology. Privacy of data needs to be given its due importance and all the countries are suffering and trying to come up with regulations for it. Jairam Ramesh responded to this saying that in 2010, a bill came in the parliament which asked to govern the use of Aadhaar but it was rejected lock, stock, and barrel. Had this bill been into the picture then, much of the atrocities which are happening currently could have been avoided. Sanjay Jain, who was the Director of this program said about the technology that it was very flexible when it was implemented. This meant any old person was exempted and given Aadhaar card if the person’s fingerprints are not identifiable. But as in India things get lost in translation from source to beneficiaries, this same happened for Aadhaar. Thus, this issue is not a conflict of purpose but of execution of multiple complex data.
Jairam Ramesh ended by presenting two oppositions to Aadhaar, the first was the larger exclusion done by Aadhaar and secondly the expansion of Aadhaar to large number of areas without consent. His advice then to those in power is to not oversell Aadhaar but rather try to take a precautionary approach to the matter. One can identify sitting in a minister’s session if there are theatrical bits involved. In this session, Ramesh tried to bring consensus against Aadhaar by voting through raising of hands.
About the Author – Kalpita is a Bachelor in English Literature. Her ultimate goal is to fulfill the romantic notion of changing the world for better and she is pursuing MA in Development from Azim Premji University, Bangalore. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.