Aadhaar and My Brush With Digital Exclusion

Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our TV screens were swarmed by a relentless advertising spree selling the myriad benefits that came with acquiring an Aadhaar card. They showed displayed how doors would magically open as soon as the protagonists of these commercial dramas flashed their Aadhar cards, enabling them to catch flights to save dying fathers or ensuring that they never go hungry again. These commercials sold Aadhaar – essentially an identity card – as an instant panacea to life’s most difficult problems. Some went several steps further and portrayed Aadhaar as having the power to bestow upon the poor a self-respecting identity.

Aadhaar’s miraculous ability to provide succour was seriously tested during the COVID-induced economic hardships and the multitude of deprivations that got magnified in its wake: lack of food, cash, shelter, access to basic healthcare for migrant workers, daily wagers, informal workers in cities and among many other sections of the population.

Both before and during the pandemic, there is sufficient evidence to show that one’s Aadhaar number is imbued with strange properties; not having one results in an increasing number of benefits being denied as the range of services requiring mandatory Aadhaar linkage expands steadily. However, having an Aadhaar number does not guarantee access to the benefits that citizens are legitimately entitled to. For a summary of Aadhaar-based exclusions, look here, here and here.

In other words, Aadhaar is not the magic wand that it was projected to be.

It can be argued that the creators of the Aadhaar ad campaign, despite being officially vetted and approved, went overboard and made exaggerated claims about the powers of the

— source thewire.in | Ashwini Deshpande | 03/Jan/2022

Nullius in verba

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