In the recent verdict, the bench of 9 SC judges made “Right to Privacy” a Fundamental Right. The Government opposed the “Right to Privacy” in this famous case. The Aadhaar card was at the center of contention in this case.
A couple of days after, both Modi and Jaitley are lauding RSS/BJP Government’s efforts in linking 1 billion Aadhaar cards to 1 billion bank accounts to 1 billion mobile phones. The scheme is called JAM (not the English world Jam, which maybe more appropriate, but it is an acronym for Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, and Mobile). Jaitley described it as a social revolution and also claimed that it is meant for “social exclusion”.
If one reads the over 500 pages long judgment of the Supreme Court on “Right to Privacy”, it will be clear that the state cannot make the citizens have a mandatory digital identity. It is up to the individual citizen and their right if they would really like to be profiled through the digital array of information available to “private” and “public” bodies.
It questions the rationale for Aadhaar. Even the makers of Aadhaar, like Nilekani, have voiced their concerns for privacy. While it is true that we are living in a paradigm that is altogether different from the previous paradigms where our lives are increasingly shaped by the internet and the data.
The companies like Reliance have been investing in new oil called “data”. Data is the new oil and data mining is the new business.
The big corporate players can know where we are traveling, what we are eating, who are befriending and unfriending, and if the JAM (1b-1b-1b) mantra succeeds, the political parties (most importantly the RSS/BJP) will know what we are thinking, who we are voting, and what caste we belong to.
Already Wikileaks had informed that the Aadhaar data is available with the CIA. There have been reports that one could easily buy the different data bases and the data bases can be hacked.
The Congress Government, under the chairmanship of P. Chidambaram, started what is called NATGRID, the integrated grid of data available with different state agencies like banks, railways, insurance, and so on.
The NATGRID is to be available with the law enforcing agencies for reducing crime. We also know that Reliance is a leading player in the JAM scheme where the Reliance Jio is launched to make available “free” phones and data to the users, but nothing is free in the world.
The Facebook gives free accounts but sells us advertisements: buys our attention and sells it to others. It is true about all the “free” services, Reliance Jio is no exception, it has already helped the concerned stakeholders through its large scale free supply of SIM cards before the UP elections.
The larger debate in the country will be how to make Aaadhar (support) so that the citizens will not become Nir-Aadhaar (without support). The Congress and the RSS/BJP Government linked Aadhaar intrinsically with the Government schemes that it will be difficult to unwind it so soon and it will take a lot of time to unwind it.
Has India gone onto the slippery slope of Aadhaar that the future politics will revolve around it? If 1b-1b-1b is used to transfer direct cash to the people before the elections, the poor in India will be easily swayed to vote for the RSS/BJP in the next elections.
Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist