Aadhaar critic joins ID16.9 podcast to discuss inclusion shortfalls
Allegations that India’s digital ID Aadhaar has entrenched, rather than alleviated exclusion from social services and government benefits, have dogged the world’s largest identification program from the outset.
The fifth episode of the ID16.9 podcast examines those claims, and widespread concerns about the use of the identity system for surveillance, in a conversation between documentary filmmaker and Yoti Fellowship alumnus Subhashish Panigrahi and host Frank Hersey.
Aadhaar has given millions of people the first identity credential they have ever held, and holds the potential to dramatically advance United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 16.9.
However, Panigrahi argues that the exclusion problems faced by India, some of which are traced back to the country’s caste system, were never adequately addressed by Aadhaar.
“Just to provide people legal identity, a legal identification, a country cannot run a project that is predominantly excluding majority of the people or people that are extremely excluded otherwise,” he says.
People who were previously excluded and remain so, according to Panigrahi, include people without ready internet access, as Aadhaar testing did not include remote areas, he says. While not a citizenship document, Aadhaar was used for comparisons to the National Register of Citizens, which were then used to declare 1.9 people illegal residents.
Panigrahi also shares a personal tale of the difficulty he had avoiding a technically optional link between his Aadhaar account and his bank account. His reluctance led to his bank account being blocked.
To reform the system and deliver the intended benefits to all people in India, Panigrahi says underlying social problems must be addressed, and legal basis and protections for the collection of biometrics and other data established.