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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Aadhaar Card and I

There is much talk, or should we say, heated arguments, in the Social media about Aadhaar card and how it impinges on privacy of citizens. By and large , the elite are disturbed by loss of privacy while the vast majority of the unwashed masses couldn't care less one way or the other, about the whole issue .

There would definitely be some genuine people who like Henry Thoreau believed that any govt can only be detrimental to individual freedom . Those interested in his philosophy can check out “Walden Pond”. It's something like, “I want nothing from the govt,except to be left alone”. That is understandable. people can find a secluded spot and  live with Nature ;No Taxes, No identity and all the privacy you want and more viz, Solitude.

In my opinion, most people who oppose Aadhar , simply want their income and expenditure hidden from the Govt and general public unless they want to disclose something. How else can you explain a person giving minute to minute report of every meal and every event on every social media under a name like 'cool_cat' or 'nameless' , and yet claiming to be “a very private person” when it comes to getting Aadhaar Card issued?

When I first heard about Aadhar Card and Nandan Nilekeni's Project , I could never have imagined the opposition to the venture. Identity cards were already  ubiquitous. People in the corporate world , wear their cards proudly, with a fancy ribbon, during entire period of  working hours, if not 24 x 7. Then you have Passport,Driving license, PAN Card,Voter ID and so on, none of which prompted this kind of threat to privacy as Aadhaar does now.

As an army man, for a long time I had had no card other than the Identity Card issued by the army. It did not have address or phone number and it was not to be photocopied or handed to anyone even temporarily. I had nothing by way of proof of identity or proof of address for anything like opening a bank account. Particularly in the south, it was so difficult to explain that I had no documents at all like telephone bill, electricity bill, Ration Card or Seshan card(Voter Identity Card). Not that we had free electricity just that the electricity charges were directly recovered by our paying authority at Pune, based on reports sent by MES.(Military Engineer Service) , irrespective of where we were stationed.

So, how did we get about in the civvies street ? we had a certificate made by the Battalion about where we lived and worked. Since it had a heading like “To Whomsoever it may concern”, It was generally referred to by soldiers and sailors simply as “whomsoever”. It could be used as “Ek whomsoever chahiye, bank account kholna hai” As for the family members of a soldier, it was even more difficult to provide any kind of proof of their existence.

Coming back to the time when the aadhar card was introduced, we were thrilled. We trooped down to the designated place, where all faujis,serving and retired gathered along with their families to put our thumb impressions.

When the card finally materialized, it was a great day. Though the photo on the card was anything but flattering, it was a card accepted in the civvies street. The magical 12 digits gave us an address proof and identity proof. At last we had something other than “Whomsoever”.