‘What is the cost of Aadhaar’

A panel comprising luminaries from various fields presided over a gathering of more than hundred people to discuss the pros and cons of the Aadhaar system on Saturday.

The discussion saw activists present case studies on how the system has impacted people across professions, including migrant workers, hawkers, tribals, and pensioners.

The panelists included former Bombay High Court judge Hosbet Suresh, Prof. R. Ramakumar from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, veteran journalist Sucheta Dalal, and senior advocate Bapoo Malcom. “What is the cost of Aadhaar?” Justice Suresh asked, saying thepresent government was the biggest critic of the scheme when it was launched. He pointed out that the government still didn’t have a robust data protection law. “The project was a solution in search of a problem, and one of its aims from the beginning has been to shut down the public distribution system (PDS) and bring in direct cash transfers,” Mr. Ramakumar said.

A majority of cases involved the denial of rations from government PDS outlets. Ulka Mahajan from Anna Adhikar Abhiyan presented case studies in which senior citizens were denied rations as their fingerprints didn’t match. Other problems centred around making Aadhaar cards and delay in linking them at the PDS level and the concerned grievance redressal mechanism.

Issues around security and identification as well as biometrics were also discussed by the panel. Ms. Dalal said the intention was not to give people an identity, but for big business to target consumers. Prof. Ramakumar said the biggest gainers from the project were big business and the State. Ms Dalal said biometrics were never foolproof and the government knew this.

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