Nearly 55 lakh voters in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were disenfranchised as a result of linking Voter IDs and Aadhaar, reports The Wire. The report states that only 30 lakh voters were deleted during the Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage process under NERPAP. However, it does not specify how the remaining 25 lakh votes were disenfranchised. Note that the Election Commission started linking voter IDs to Aadhaar in 2015.
Earlier this week, Kiran Chandra, general secretary of the Free Software Movement of India, demanded, in a press conference that:
- “Complete details of all pilot programmes conducted in Telangana be disclosed with regard to Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage.”
- Destroy or delete Aadhaar-related data, saying that the then CEO supplied voter data to the state government “in clear violation of electoral laws.”
How did voters get deleted from the rolls?
- According to Chandra, the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) collates information from multiple state government departments and creates a repository of information. The Telangana SRDH collected citizens’ data, including personal information like caste and religion.
- He said that the SRDH used Aadhaar to interlink the siloed databases, and that the SRDH was linked to UIDAI servers to enable biometric authentication.
- Along with Chandra, data scientist and researcher Srinivas Kodali said that the ECI “abdicated its responsibility” as it failed to act on large-scale deletion of voters even after political parties complained to it.
Aadhaar-Voter ID linking under NERPAP
Further, the two pointed out that the chief electoral officer of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh began the exercise of linking Aadhaar data with Voter ID/EPIC under the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) in 2015. NERPAP said that Aadhaar linking would rid the electoral rolls of bogus and duplicate voters. In August 2015, the Supreme Court ordered that this process be stopped, but 30 lakh voters’ names had already been deleted.
The Wire’s report adds that an RTI response from the ECI reveals that the then Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwar Lal admitted that door-to-door verification was not carried out prior to the deletion of names in Greater Hyderabad. The present chief electoral officer had then claimed that most of the voter name deletions were genuine since less than 5% of voters whose names were deleted re-enrolled for Voter IDs.
Aadhaar, voter IDs and the elections so far
- Last month, the Election Commission denied information about the number of Voter IDs linked to Aadhaar, and refused to give out information on the amount of money spent on the Aadhaar linking process.
- In December, Rajat Kumar, the Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana had said that the deletion and inclusion of voter names from state electoral lists were made as part of voter enrolments when a revision of the electoral rolls was undertaken
- Meanwhile, the Election Commission had voiced its support for a Madras HC petition calling for Aadhaar-Voter ID linking in October last year.
- The idea of weeding out bogus and duplicate voters by linking Aadhaar with Voter ID was echoed by 7 national and 34 political parties urging the Election Commission to do so in August last year.