Subscribers to the ‘Aadhaar’ model are the first victims of this new system.
Dissecting the world’s largest biometric ID system, ‘Aadhaar’, Professor Reetika Khera from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, delivers the Seventh TG Narayanan Memorial Lecture 2018-19 on, “Aadhaar, Welfare and the Media”.
Khera’s extensive research on Aadhaar, interrogates the necessity of this new biometric system and the impact it has on welfare schemes like the Public Distribution System (PDS) and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
Engaging with the welfare angle introduced other crucial investigations about big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, civil liberties, human rights, Indian democracy and surveillance, making subscribers to the aadhaar model the first victims of this new system.
Promises of eradicating corruption in welfare schemes did not bear enough material as provisions to continue corruption exist post the introduction of aadhaar . Quantity fraud and overcharging continue to hamper welfare schemes, while identity fraud could be potentially eliminated given the successful implementation of the aadhaar as a universal system. However the existing scenario reveal more people being hindered by the implementation of this system. More than 20 deaths have been recorded across the country due to aadhaar.
Contrary to the government’s claim of millions without an ID, An RTI revealed, about 99.97% of availed aadhaar cards were acquired by providing existing document evidence, clearly indicating the minimal reach of this system.
Similarly the mandate of aadhaar hampers other welfare programs like the NREGA, midday meal and pension schemes. “welfare needs aadhaar like a fish needs a bicycle” said Khera, emphasizing on the irrelevance of aadhaar in welfare schemes.
In the initial stages, media was used as a propaganda tool by the government often engaging in damage control to maintain faith among people in this new biometric system. However when the middle class were impacted with the mandate of linking aadhaar cards to bank accounts, the narrative of the media considerably changed. “ the role of the media has been crucial in both getting us into this pickle and getting us out of the pickle,” she added.