The definition of privacy is very clear: an individual has right over his personal information and nobody can appropriate it without the permission of the individual concerned. AADHAAR bill is forcing every citizen of India to divulge his or her biometric details like retinal/IRIS scan information to the State. If he or she doesn’t do it, he or she will not be able to register his or her property or his or her marriage, won’t be able to open a bank account, won’t be able to buy food and even medicines; basically, he or she won’t be able to exist. This is the worst form of penetration by the State into the personal lives of the people. Nobody can dare do this in any European country or even in America. The SC is seized of this issue, but the government introduced the AADHAAR bill in the Lok Sabha as a money bill and obviously passed it too in the house dominated by them. I wonder what can the SC do now!
When you raise concerns about privacy, they divert it into an issue of protection of biometric information collected by the State, which is a red herring to obviate the real issue of infringement of privacy by forceful collection of the biometric information per se — I fail to understand why do I have to give my retinal/IRIS scan to get my property registered. In fact, the issue of protection of collected information arises for those who volunteer the information to the State with a confidentiality clause in their contract. But, here, the State is collecting this information by force without any contract and that too in the guise of a money bill. Nothing can be more perverse! And nothing can be more autocratic! You can’t change the definition of privacy by manipulation.
In fact, this diversion started during the Congress regime when they constituted a panel under the chairmanship of Justice A. P. Shah. The panel comprised all kinds of psuedo-liberal capitalists from the civil society. Though the panel recommendations were named “Nine Point Code” on privacy, what it actually did was to facilitate the collection of information by various interest groups including business. In fact, the private information of individuals was considered a tradable commodity with economic value and guidelines were framed to protect business & individual interests in tandem. This was indeed a very perverse exercise in privacy legislation deliberations. The AADHAAR bill picks up from there. It considers biometric information of individuals as a necessary identifier for availing government services that too for a fee. Basically, it says the citizens of India will have to qualify for doing any economic transactions in India, and that qualification would be divulgence of his or her biometric information. In other words, the privacy rights of individuals have been subjugated to the business interest of the State, and, if clause 57 is upheld, also of the private sector, but, of course, this government has even subverted the opting out option of the “Nine Point Code”.
AADHAR bill is just the tip of the iceberg; much more can be collected: DNA profiles, Brain Maps, Privileged Communication (like Lovers’ Talk), etc. If these attempts of the State are not nipped in the bud, the country will become a zombie house named Bharat Mata, but I wonder who would then shout for its victory! If this is Bharat Mata’s destiny, let her RIP!
© 2016 Ankur Mutreja
Featured Image Credit: Devendra Makkar (https://www.flickr.com/photos/102289073@N02/9824726176)