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Campaign in Meghalaya by Aadhar card holders to opt out

The Meghalaya Peoples Committee on Aadhar will kick start the campaign against Aadhar officially in Shillong on Monday

india Updated: Oct 30, 2017 16:54 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Meghalaya,Aadhar,Aadhar Card
Meghalaya is ranked 35th (ahead of Assam) in the list of 36 states and union territories in terms of Aadhar enrollment.(HT File Photo)

A group in Meghalaya will start a campaign on Monday urging people to opt out of the Aadhaar system and demand that all information collected during enrollment must be deleted from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) database, saying the process was not voluntary and they were misled or forced by warnings about curtailment of rights.

“Despite enrollment for Aadhaar being voluntary, citizens are being warned to enlist with threats that they might lose their rights if they fail to do so. Also, there is the possibility of personal details getting stolen. That’s why we want to opt out of it,” Rev K Pyrtuh of Meghalaya People’s Committee on Aadhaar told the Hindustan Times.

MPCA is an umbrella group of several civil societies and student bodies that has been at the forefront in raising questions about Aadhaar enrolment in the northeastern state.

Pyrtuh, who is a pastor and senior member of Meghalaya’s Presbyterian church body, said due to the unique position of states like Meghalaya and Assam where the threat of influx from neighbouring countries is high, people should be very circumspect before giving out details to enrol for Aadhaar.

As part of the campaign, many who have already enlisted in the Aadhaar system are planning to write to the UIDAI that issues the 12-digit unique identification number urging it to remove their personal details from its database.

Besides information like name, gender, date of birth, address etc individuals also need to submit fingerprint details, iris scans, and facial photograph to get enrolled for Aadhaar.

Meghalaya is ranked 35th (ahead of Assam) in the list of 36 states and Union territories in terms of Aadhaar enrollment. According to UIDAI data, only 4.63 lakh or 14.3% of the state’s 32.30 lakh population have got their Aadhaar cards till October 15 this year.

“There are rumblings among citizens of Meghalaya about Aadhaar for three major reasons. One, it would make it easier for non-Meghalaya people to get citizenship voting rights, it’s compulsory nature and the suspicions regarding its use for surveillance and control,” Angela Rangad, the convener of Thma U Rangli u Juli (TUR), a progressive people’s group that is a part of MPCA, told HT.

Last week, MPCA held a meeting in Shillong where over a thousand residents who have enrolled for Aadhaar were informed about the possible impact on their right to privacy if they enrol for the scheme.

MPCA has also drafted letters in English and Khasi for residents in eastern Meghalaya urging them to make an “informed choice” and write to the UIDAI seeking to get out of the Aadhaar system.

“I did not enroll in the UIDAI database voluntarily; I was coerced/misled into enrolling because I was warned I would lose my rights as a citizen and that I would be excluded from my rights and entitlements and from various services that the state is obliged to provide to me unless I enrolled on the database,” the letter addressed to the UIDAI chairperson said.

“I have since been apprised of the various concerns about the databasing of people. I am aware too that the coercion has been in deliberate contempt of the orders of the Supreme Court of India,” it added.

The Supreme Court will hear on Monday a petition by West Bengal government against the Centre’s move to make enrollment for Aadhar mandatory for citizens to get social welfare benefits.

It will also hear a plea challenging the government’s move, which has raised privacy concerns, especially after the recent massive leak of citizens details, make it mandatory for people to link mobile numbers and bank details to Aadhaar.

The top court ruled in August that the right to privacy is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, in a potential setback to the Centre’s push to mandate the use of Aadhaar.

The biometric system has been a matter of controversy for political parties and privacy advocates who believe the programme gives government indiscriminate power.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 10:57 IST