The 12th of January marks the beginning of a month of protests against the UID project by various organisations. Protests were held in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Jharkhand and Bihar have events planned that will take place in the coming weeks.
In Delhi, at Parliament Street, Kanshu Devi from Savitri Nagar spoke about how she is unable to get rations because her fingerprints are not recognised by the Aadhaar based machines installed at ration shops. Due to biometric failure, she has also not received her pension in months. Santosh from Lal Gumbad stated that the machines also failed to recognise her fingerprints. Geeta from the same area has 3 children who have not been added to her ration card because, despite the fact that they have birth certificates, they do not have Aadhaar. Ruksana and Geeta from Jagdamba Camp are facing the same issue. Their families therefore get much less ration than they are entitled to, putting an additional burden on them.
The government and proponents of the UID have averred constantly, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the citizens of India have whole heartedly embraced the Aadhaar. Citing enrolment rates to back this claim, they deliberately ignore the fact that Aadhaar has been made mandatory for all manner of common public services that range from birth to death of a resident, forcing people to enrol. These same proponents of the project are unable to fix the real issues with Aadhaar that continue to affect people’s lives.
Students from AISA spoke about how students entitled to scholarships were being forced to enrol in Aadhaar in order to get their scholarships. Sucheta De explained how the UID has clearly become a surveillance project. Kavita Krishnan of the AIDWA explained the threat that the UID posed for people’s privacy.
One last story is that of Neela Hardikar, from Morena who is in Delhi for the Book Fair and decided to attend the protest. She is a teacher who retired from Sarangpur, MP. She is 76 years old. When she went to enrol in the UID project in 2012, her iris didn’t get recorded so they refused her in 2012. In 2013 when the rules changed she again tried to enrol using her fingerprints l, the machine recorded 4 prints. She was given an Enrolment ID but didn’t get the card in the mail or from the Center. In 2017 she finally got the UID from the ADM office, Morena by getting it downloaded online. The ADM said she would have to update her biometrics. There were further problems with a mismatch in birthdates, the Aadhaar updation official they could only fix problems at a time. She is so fed up that she says she is too old to fix it now and will live without Aadhaar.
We are also tired. Tired of the constant stream of stories, facts and information being ignored by the authorities and others. The system is not transparent, nor is it accountable. It has no form of relevant and accessible grievance redress to respond to people’s problems. The few times that UIDAI has sprung into action are when FIRs have been filed against whistleblowers or in matters concerning celebrities.
The last few months have seen reports of starvation deaths due to Aadhaar related issues. We have seen how easy (and cheap) it is to access the Aadhaar database via the explosive tribune report. Elderly pensioners continue to face massive difficulties in using biometric authentication.
We stand together and say NO2UID, no to surveillance, no to starvation deaths, no to tech failures, no to human rights violations, and no to the coercive UID system.
The protest was attended by Rethink Aadhaar, AISA, Satark Nagrik Sangathan, Right to Food Campaign.