A new report from the Dalberg consulting firm suggests that India’s Aadhaar program is currently excluding some of the country’s most vulnerable demographics. The report specifically calls attention to India’s homeless and transgender communities, noting that 30 percent of the homeless population and more than 25 percent of the transgender population are still not registered in the national ID program.
The Supreme Court of India has previously ruled that Aadhaar cannot be used as a requirement for the distribution of welfare and other services, and citizens are allowed to opt out of the program. However, Dalberg argues that rapid adoption of the Aadhaar standard in finance and other industries has made it a de facto necessity, especially for marginalized individuals who don’t have another way to prove their identity.
“The most marginalized populations are less likely to have Aadhaar and more likely to have errors in their Aadhaar information,” said the report, before adding that those errors could “lead to denial of welfare services, and at times exclusion.”
Homeless people are at a particular disadvantage, largely because proof of residence is required for government documents.
“This has denied them most official forms of identity, which results in their persistent exclusion from state welfare schemes and entitlements,” explained Shivani Chaudhry, the Executive Director of the Housing and Land Rights Network in New Delhi.
Biometric technology theoretically gives people more control over their ID, but the Supreme Court of India has declared that privacy is a fundamental human right, and there have been persistent concerns about the security of the Aadhaar database. Privacy advocates have also raised concerns about the potential for biometric surveillance.
As it stands, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has issued more than 1.2 billion Aadhaar IDs, though an additional 102 million people are still unregistered, including 90 percent of the population in the state of Assam in the northeastern part of the country. Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric identity system, and utilizes face, fingerprint, and iris recognition.
November 26, 2019 – by Eric Weiss