As door-to-door collection of Aadhar numbers begins in order to link them with voter IDs, the contentious Amendment to the Election Laws Bill is again in the limelight. Internet activists are raising a red flag, saying the move may disenfranchise lakhs of voters and also diminish the sanctity of the Voter ID database.
Internet rights organisation, Internet Freedom Foundation, released a letter sourced from a booth-level officer (BLO) in which the Chief Electoral Officer for Haryana directed BLOs to commence house-to-house visits for the collection of Aadhar numbers for voters already on the electoral roll. The collection started on August 16, 2022, and the letter specified that the collection of Aadhar numbers would be voluntary.
However, IFF contends that an individual approached by a BLO was notified that his name would be deleted from the electoral roll if the voter ID was not linked to the Aadhar Card.
In December, the Lok Sabha passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill seeking to link the two identity cards in order to avoid errors such as voter duplication on the electoral roll. Activists, however, note that such a law can be considered unconstitutional since an Indian citizen only has to prove his or her citizenship in order to be provided with a voter ID. Documents ranging from Pan Card, Birth Certificate, Ration Card, to Bank Passbook can be used for this. Citizens need to establish their address proof, proof of age, and identity proof in order to receive a voter ID.
While the government noted that the move would be voluntary, in June the Ministry of Law and Justice amended form 6, used for electoral roll authentication, to make it compulsory to provide an Aadhar number if the citizen had an Aadhar ID card.
‘Will diminish sanctity’
Although the government says the intention is to clean up the electoral roll database, activists argue that Aadhar-linked databases which are linked to various cases of fraud will increase the chances of voter fraud. “Linking Aadhaar would dilute the sanctity of the Voter ID database. As we pointed out in 2019, self-reported errors in Aadhaar data are reportedly one-and-one-half times higher than errors in the electoral database. Given widespread data quality issues in the Aadhaar database, this exercise would diminish the sanctity of records in the Voter ID database,” a report issued by Rethink Aadhar, a campaign against the Unique Identification Project, said.
Krishnesh Bapat, Associate Legal Counsel at the IFF, said, “Now an Aadhar number is linked to every piece of information, from a citizen’s bank account to UPI, to government subsidy schemes, to mobile plans. It is an important piece of information, and a citizen must have every right to protect this information and not want it to be part of an electoral roll.”