Monday, June 5, 2017

Nikhil Dey & Aruna Roy - Excluded by Aadhaar

Sita of Karkala village, Lassadiya Panchayat, was one of many who spoke at the annual MKSS Mazdoor Mela in Bhim on May 1. “I have no Aadhaar card, I don’t know why they say my fingerprints don’t show. Without Aadhaar, I am denied work under the MGNREGA, and get no rations. I am a single woman, and have no other source of income. What will I eat, and how will I survive?” she said. Her anaemic condition is apparent, and she should be classified as a gross administrative failure, triggering emergency corrective action. But for the ruling elite in Delhi and Jaipur, she is just a digit — one more, or one less in a policy framework they are determined to impose for their own ends.

There are many women who share Sita’s anguish. Though already enrolled in Aadhaar, “voluntarily” as the government would have it, the biometric eco-system, for one reason or another, has failed to authenticate them, denying them access to rations, pensions, work. They speak with the pain and frustration of having repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to get the rations due to them. Their words carry the clarity of experience and analysis that comes from being the object of a mass experiment where exceptions and exclusions are diabolically counted as proof of success. It doesn’t seem to matter to policymakers that rations, or pensions, so basic and vital to survival, are denied. Their numbers have reached Jaipur and Delhi, to be grandly proclaimed as the “frauds”, the “dead”, the “bogus”, and the “duplicate people”, successfully eliminated by the government, resulting in saving large sums of money.

This is Aadhaar in welfare: A vast mechanism that is turning the government’s dismal failure to deliver into a means of erasing a large number of people. It is part of a new war on poverty, where, instead of eliminating hunger, it is an elimination of the poor and the destitute. The ringmasters in Delhi have found a digital whip that can do no wrong. Unfortunately, many people still do not understand that the “Aadhaar card” is no card. The government rests all the tall claims of Aadhaar on positive biometric authentication, which even the UIDAI admits is their only reliable service. The challenge of capturing and authenticating on a central server millions of biometric transactions daily gives rise to a host of failures because of biometric mismatch, poor internet connectivity, and machine malfunction. The ration dealer holds the trump card as he knows just how to (mis)represent even a positive answer. The beneficiary is left to carry the blame for all these lacunae, and suffer the karma of exclusion. The numbers being excluded are staggering. .. read more:

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