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TOI EDIT-Aadhaar Hydra Again EC wants to link voter roll to Aadhaar data, this is unnecessary and risky

August 20, 2019 05:14 AM


Aadhaar Hydra Again
EC wants to link voter roll to Aadhaar data, this is unnecessary and risky
Election Commission’s request to government to provide statutory backing for collecting Aadhaar numbers of new and existing voters signifies a return to the function creep phase that characterised the Aadhaar project before it was cut down to size by Supreme Court. In 2015, EC had embarked on a National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) requiring voters to provide Aadhaar numbers to purportedly weed out duplicate, bogus, ineligible and shifted voters. SC soon stayed the programme, but not before data of 32 crore voters was already linked/collected.

After last year’s SC judgment, government is using legislative route to again extend Aadhaar’s public uses. Not surprisingly, EC has also sent its wish list hoping to revive the 2015 NERPAP exercise which was begun without adequate consultation or parliamentary sanction. But questions remain. Election voter ID is proof of citizenship while Aadhaar is a voluntary document used for identification and not a proof of nationality. Using the latter to authenticate the former can delegitimise genuine citizens. Bundling everything around the 12 digit Aadhaar number is fraught with such risks. It can lead to exclusion of voters just as it has excluded PDS beneficiaries.

There are also cyber security risks when Aadhaar data is in multiple databases, leading to compromise of citizen’s private information as has happened several times already. The danger of rushing into technological fixes is exemplified by the 2018 Telangana assembly polls in which an estimated 22 lakh citizens were wrongfully deleted from the voter roll. One alleged culprit was a software experiment that inorganically seeded the state voter roll to a quasi Aadhaar database. The right to vote is integral to citizenship. EC must refine its time tested, booth level verification methods instead of relying on Aadhaar and the unclear implications of its function creep.

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