Many seem convinced the scheme is compulsory

A couple of days ago, Lavanya Mohan’s tweet on being ‘sent back in line’ for not wearing a dupatta while trying to get her picture taken for the Aadhaar number raised a storm on Twitter.

Users of the social networking site responded with anger and scorn over what they termed ‘moral policing.’ However, this does not seem to have adversely affected the process of verification at all. In fact, according to a Corporation official, the number of residents thronging offices in West Mambalam, where the incident occurred, has only increased since the controversy. This only reflects the fact that many think the scheme is compulsory.

Long queues of those anxious to complete biometric verification are a common sight everywhere. This is unsurprising as the word Aadhaar seems ubiquitous these days. It stares at you everywhere, from ATMs to civic body offices. The website of Unique Identification Authority of India, which issues the 12-digit individual identification number that is Aadhaar, says it is not mandatory. However, most people seem to believe otherwise.

“Residents are scared that they may even lose citizenship if they do not have Aadhaar number,” said N. Baskaran, a Corporation councillor in Saidapet. “Everyday at 5 a.m., people queue up at the ward office to get tokens. As biometric data is collected only from 30 people in a day, many of them return disappointed. Repeated failure causes panic,” S. Elumalai, a resident of T. Nagar.

Incidentally, the statement of the Minister of Planning in the Lok Sabha on December 2, 2009 clearly says that “Enrolment will not be mandated. The UID number will prove identity, not citizenship.”

Many citizens cited the notices at ATMs as the reason for the urgency. These notices ask residents to link the Aadhaar/UID number with their accounts to get “benefits of government subsidies.” The banks however deny having persuaded customers to link Aadhaar with their accounts.

The fervour seems to have penetrated the higher echelons of the city establishment too. Recently, the councillor of ward 129 staged a road blockade protesting the delay in issuing Aadhaar. Collection of biometric data is on at Tondiarpet, Royapuram, Thiru.Vi.Ka. Nagar, Anna Nagar, Teynampet and Kodambakkam zones. Work in Adyar zone will start soon.

“Six lakh residents have been covered by biometric identification under NPR in Chennai. All of them will get Aadhaar numbers automatically in 30 days,” said M.R.V. Krishna Rao, Joint Director, Census Department.

However, some experts were very critical of the process. “Aadhaar is farcical. It has no legal sanction. This is autocratic. It is just an IT business opportunity for a few,” said M.G. Devasahayam, a former IAS officer. “The government is enrolling all residents. But we have not discussed it in Parliament,” he added.

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