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Legal framework for protecting citizens’ rights needed for digitalisation

  • Sanjeev Kumar | ShimlaFebruary 27, 2017 | 08:18 PM

Although the Union Government is making efforts to digitise economy and all payments after demonitisation, experts have raised concern over misuse of biometrics and called for legal framework to protect citizens’ rights.

Raising serious concern over UID or Aadhar project and other new digital platforms collecting and using citizen’s data, experts during a workshop on the issue of the Sambhaavnaa Institute in Palampur in Kangra district warned that digitisation is undermining our economy, democracy and sovereignty.

Usha Ramanathan, a Law Researcher, said at a time when several instances of misuse of biometrics by banks and payment portals have come to light, we need to raise the issues regarding the Aadhar and linking it to a variety of services.

“After demonitisation, the government has gone into an overdrive promoting digital platforms like Aadhaar Enabled Money Transfers, Universal Payment Interface, USSD, Paytm and other digital wallets. This enthusiastic compelling of the citizens to change their financial and commercial activities overnight is riding on the claim that almost all Indians now have an Aadhaar/UID number and bank account linked to this number – the combination of which will facilitate India becoming a predominantly cashless economy,” she said.

Ramanathan said, however, there is neither any policy document nor any specific legal framework that ensures that the fundamental rights of the citizens are not harmed in the process of, and after the achievement of this shift to digital.

Eminent social activist Nikhil Dey said the use of authentication using Aadhar for delivery of public services is leading to widespread misery and excluding lakhs of people from getting basic services like rations and pensions.

This is despite the fact, there is a clear Supreme Court interim order that Aadhar cannot be demanded for basic services and that has been rampantly violated by many state governments, he added.
“It is the private financial technology companies, both multinational and domestic, whose interests are being served, be it by the UID or the cashless India project,” he said, adding the government has been pushing these projects in the name of security or removing corruption and black money. “But we have no evidence to indicate how corruption will be solved just by bringing in technology. We need to challenge this idea,” he added.

“Now more than ever, we as citizens need to educate ourselves on the impacts of mass digitisation in India,” said Mohammad Chappalwala, a former IT Engineer and Programme Coordinator at Sambhaavnaa Institute.

“We have also launched a campaign called ‘Rethink Aadhar’ on social media through which we intend to spread awareness about the problems with UID across the country,” he added.

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