Activists and concerned citizens around India have been fighting against mandatory linking of Aadhaar on various fronts. Even after Supreme Court’s ruling on where Aadhaar is not mandatory, there have been situations where the unique ID is still being erroneously asked as a prerequisite for providing some service.
Recently we learned about Ramesh Kurhade, a Mumbai Port Trust employee, who refused to link his Aadhaar with salary account in the bank. Even after Mumbai Port Trust stopped his salary payments, he held strong for nearly 30 months fueled by his principles and firm belief that linking of Aadhaar for salary account was unconstitutional and not mandatory. Hearing about Mr Kurhade’s courageous fight, Moneylife Foundation had organised a small gathering of activists and citizens to felicitate and honour him.
Explaining how he decided to approach the Court for resolution, Mr Kurhade said, “I wrote letters to the Secretary and Chairman of Port Trust, but they were all in vain. I got absolutely nothing from them. Then being put in such a tight spot, I recalled a popular thought ‘A smart person should not climb the steps to Court’. I told myself if a smart person should not climb those steps, then perhaps I should become mad and take this extreme action.”
Also being felicitated was Dhruv Desai, a student of Moneylife Foundation’s trustee Dr Anupam Saraph. Although his fight against mandatory linking of Aadhaar was not as extreme as Mr Kurhade, he too has stood firm in his principles. Learning from Dr Saraph on the flaws of the Aadhaar based payment systems, Dhruv realised that, “by succumbing to submitting Aadhaar, (he is) being made party to weaken the financial system”. He credited Dr Saraph, in making him realise the flaws of Aadhaar and further enabling him to take a stance against mandatory linking for opening a new bank account in HDFC bank.
Dr Saraph added his viewpoint on the UID by stating that, “When the government introduced it, they basically said we do not recognise you as a person unless if you have the Aadhaar. No ministry, no corporate would recognise us, unless we have an Aadhaar or unless we fight and try to escape this. It is important to note that once you have an Aadhaar you are no longer in control of your identity. Anyone can duplicate your Aadhaar details for doing transactions in your name and you cannot deny them. There is no mechanism to distinguish between transactions that you have done legitimately and transactions done by someone else using your Aadhaar details.”
Human rights activist Vickram Crishna, who fights for protection of personal privacy and was one of the petitioners to the Supreme Court against Aadhaar had this to say on his fight against Aadhaar, “Primarily when we took up this case against Aadhaar, the first thing that attracted us was that our civil liberties were being put at risk. Being brought up in Delhi, under the shadow Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Supreme Court, it never occurred to me that as citizens of India, our fundamental rights are not being protected. The government challenged our fundamental rights and said no you don’t have a right to your own body, your own privacy. Not only were our civil liberties at risk, but it was being done in an extremely casual and very technically weak manner.”
Present at the gathering were also other activists and concerned citizens, such as Raghu Godavar, a member of the ‘Rethink Aadhaar’ campaign, Kamyani Bali Mahabal, Adv Murali Neelakanthan, RN Bhaskar and Jude D’Souza.
Senior counsellor Neelakathan shared his ordeal related to the Income Tax office and how one needs to link their Aadhaar for IT purposes as well. He questioned how can Aadhaar be used a means for identification when UIDAI says that it is in fact not an identity proof.
Yogesh Sapkale, director-projects, of Moneylife Foundation, also shared his views saying, “In the past 10 years that I have witnessed the fight against Aadhaar, I have seen that until you resist, the other side will pressurize you into submission. For example, if you want to acquire a new SIM card from a mobile operator or port your number to a different operator, the representative would first ask for your Aadhaar and say the activation will be done in few hours. If you resist, they will say SIM activation will take 2-3 days. But why do you want activation to be done in few hours, especially for a new number, which is not known to others? And when you resist submitting Aadhaar, they will finally relent and accept other valid documents required for your know-your-customer (KYC) requirement.”
Sharing some important lines from the constitution, Raghu Godavar summed up the session by quoting a very important line from the book The Transformative Constitution authored by Gautam Bhatia, “…that the individual shall not be required to relinquish any of his constitutional rights as a condition precedent to the receipt of privilege. That the state shall not delegate powers to private persons to govern others.”