On the 2nd of July 2017, the Union government had directed the states that all Aadhaar centres (including private operators) be moved to government premises such as district collectorates, zila parishad offices or municipal offices by the end of August 2017. They could also be located at banks, block offices, taluk offices or other delivery offices run by state governments, Dr. Pandey had said at that time.
This list got expanded to include all Scheduled Commercial Banks, both public and private. Six months later, the focus of establishing Aadhaar enrollment centres largely remains banks and post offices. Here are some pertinent replies from the government in the LokSabha this march.
As of 21st March, less than half the targetted enrollment centres were operational as per the government answer to Unstarred question no 4228 in the Lok Sabha.
Dr. Kirit Somaiya Asked
Will the Minister of ELECTRONICS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY be pleased to state:
- whether the work of setting up of Aadhaar centres in post offices/banks have been started;
- if so, the current status of handing over the work to post offices and banks;
- the number of post offices/banks which have been identified for this work;
- the number of post offices/banks in which facilities of Aadhaar enrolment/ updation have been started, State-wise;
- whether the Government has directed that there is no need to get Aadhaar card laminated from private parties and Aadhaar letter printout is sufficient to get the Aadhaar linked benefits; and
- if so, the details thereof?
To this, the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Mr. K. J. Alphons responded:
(a), (b) and (c): Yes, Sir. Department of Posts, as Registrar of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), has been mandated to set up Aadhaar enrolment and update facility in 13,352 designated Post Offices across the country. Schedule Commercial Banks have also been mandated under Regulation 12A of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations, 2016 to set up Aadhaar enrolment and update facility at 13,705 bank branches across the country.
(d): As on 14th March, 2018, a total of 12,114 Aadhaar enrolment and update centres have become operational at Post Offices/ Banks across the country. The updated state-wise list of these centres is available on the UIDAI official website: www.uidai.gov.in
(e) and (f): Yes, Sir. As per subsection (3) of Section 4 of Aadhaar Act, 2016, “An Aadhaar number, in physical or electronic form subject to authentication and other conditions, as may be specified by regulations, may be accepted as proof of identity of the Aadhaar number holder for any purpose.”
UIDAI in this regard has issued advisory that Aadhaar letter or its cutaway portion or downloaded version of Aadhaar on ordinary paper or mAadhaar are perfectly valid.
Out of 27,057 enrollment centers expected to be set up at Post Offices (13,352) and Scheduled Commercial Banks (13,705) in total, so far, only 12,114 are operational. As of writing this article, we were not able to locate the updated state-wise list of these centers on the UIDAI website. The Aadhaar Enrollment Center locator only gives a list of Enrollment Centers according to specific selections.
A response to Unstarred question 3038 on the 14th of March, 2018 in the Lok Sabha regarding Aadhaar Enrollment Centers at Post Offices given just a week earlier by The Minister of State in the Ministry of Commonications and the Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways, Mr. Manoj Sinha indicates that 6,765 out of the 12,114 Aadhaar Enrollment Centers are in Post Offices.
However, just a week before that, on the 7th of March, 2018, in response to Unstarred question 1972, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Mr. K. J. Alphons had stated that the number of Enrollment Centers operational in Banks and Post Offices was more than 8,500. Unless a third of the Aadhaar Enrolment centers got added in two weeks, one of the government replies provides wrong information.
We went through the Aadhaar Enrollment Center locator to manually recreate statewide numbers of Aadhaar Enrollment Centers as listed today and the total number is 10,232 (none of the numbers mentioned in the Parliament) according to this breakdown:
|Andaman And Nicobar||2|
|Dadra & Nagar Haveli||10|
|Daman and Diu||6|
|Jammu & Kashmir||106|
So how many Aadhaar Enrollment Centres are actually there?
It is difficult to know. The current numbers indicate less than one Aadhaar centres per 1.2 lakh of population.
It is not clear what is achieved by moving private operators to government premises to run enrollment centres. They are still private businesses with access to sensitive information given in trust by citizens to the government. The private operators doing the enrollments are not government employees or representatives. Similarly, private commercial banks are private businesses and authorizing them to conduct Aadhaar enrollments still amounts to private entities getting access to sensitive information that individuals are forced to give by their government.
With over a billion Aadhaar numbers generated, moving enrollment centres to government premises cannot secure the data collected insecurely in the past – which amounts to most of the Aadhaar numbers.
The lack of clarity in government replies about UIDAI operations is worrisome. We have seen a similar vagueness in the reply to another Parliamentary Question by Mr. Alphons on Virtual IDs, that got implemented with similar lack of clarity almost a month behind schedule. The data provided by the government appears to fluctuate wildly and may not be congruent with actual UIDAI data. Mr. Alphons does not appear to be in the know on developments related to the UIDAI.
In the meanwhile, a lack of enrollment centres has led to considerable distress among people who find that Aadhaar is necessary for most services and are faced with endless queues for limited tokens at Enrollment centres, while Enrollment operators who lost their work have been left in a difficult situation – to move their operations to government premises (where they cannot provide any services other than Aadhaar – most provide multiple services as Aadhaar work alone is not adequate income) or to be shut down.