CLPR hosted Dr. Usha Ramanathan for a talk on “Identity, Privacy, Data and our lives” on 27th June. She spoke about the genesis of the Aadhaar scheme and the casual brazenness with which Aadhaar was made mandatory without statutory backing and despite numerous court orders. Even after the passing of the Act, she spoke how Aadhaar in its current form does not address concerns of data security, surveillance, and dignity of citizens. She spoke about the indignity of authenticating through Aadhaar for getting fundamental entitlements like food rations, mid-day meal schemes, pensions. She read names of 18 citizens who lost their lives due to Aadhaar-seeding or authentication problem.
She explained how Aadhar which began as a unique ‘identity project’ has been turned into ‘identification project’, where the State wants to control citizens through unique identification no. S. Prassana, an advocate, read excerpts from Justice Chandrachud’s opinion in Puttaswamy judgment. This case overruled the infamous Habeas Corpus Case where the majority had held Right to Life to be a State-sanctioned right and not a natural right.
Jayna Kothari from CLPR spoke about her experience of representing Transgender activists in Aadhaar case as an intervenor. She said that in addition to biometrics, the collection of demographic information about gender, among other things can be used as a tool of exclusion and surveillance on transgender communities. Mr. Kiran from ‘Save the Internet’ Foundation spoke about the Aadhaar technology and algorithms, not being secure and being capable of misused by private corporations through data mining.
In the end, Dr. Usha said that the irrespective of the court judgment, the takeaway has been the citizens’ movement in fighting against the Aadhaar project.
In a brief interview she gave to Supreme Court Observer, she highlighted that the upcoming judgment on the constitutionality of Aadhaar had the possibility of redeeming the democratic spirit which the Aadhaar had steamrolled. While refusing to ‘hazard a guess’ on the possible outcome of the judgment, she reiterated that the Supreme Court must look at the Aadhaar Project as a ‘scheme’ to turn citizens into consumers.