Linking Aadhaar to voter ID can effectively check duplication and ghost voting and clean up the election process.
For a government that is linking Aadhaar to every conceivable aspect of our lives and fighting a tough court battle to defend the identity system, a personal comment by its own minister about not linking it to the voter ID is a bit rich.
Earlier this week, minister for IT and electronics Ravi Shankar Prasad had aired a “personal view” that Aadhaar and voter ID cards must not be linked “since they serve different purposes”.
Linking Aadhaar to voter ID cards is aimed at eliminating duplication and ghost voters — a goal that forms the basis of linking Aadhaar to most other services/applications. It is not uncommon for citizens to move from one part of the country to another, and obtain fresh voter ID cards without giving up their earlier ones. Aadhaar can effectively address this duplication and keep a check on ghost voting. The Election Commission of India has, in fact, linked as many as 32 crore Aadhaar numbers to voters’ ID cards already.
Many have raised concerns about the contradiction that would come with linking Aadhaar and voter IDs since the former is meant for all residents, while the latter is restricted to only those who are citizens of the country. The fact, however, is that having an Aadhaar number will not make you eligible to get a voter ID, which will still be a decision taken by the ECI on the basis of whether you qualify to get one.
In states like Assam, where illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a political and social flashpoint, Aadhaar penetration has anyway been kept deliberately low until the National Register for Citizens to ascertain citizenship is updated. Even if Aadhaar is linked to voter IDs in such areas, it would not complicate matters since those with valid voting rights are technically citizens of the country.
The minister’s view on such linking is, thus, peculiar. “The larger issue is that if everything is linked to Aadhaar, then the great supporters of anti-Aadhaar will say that the Narendra Modi government is snooping on everything…what you are eating, which cinema you are going. I don’t want that,” he claimed.
Going by this reasoning, the government should stop linking Aadhaar to anything, if it is so concerned about being accused of “snooping”. The biggest concerns about “snooping” have been raised by the need to link the biometric ID to bank accounts, phone numbers and other similar requirements. Voter ID and Aadhaar linkage can hardly invite harsher criticism, given the ECI already knows when a voter has exercised her/his right to vote.
His point about both the documents being meant for different purposes also appears strange. Aadhaar is linked to a document/service not because it serves the same purpose as what it is linked to, but because the government believes it can make delivery far more efficient and transparent.
Serious doubts about motives will surface if the government that propagates Aadhaar’s synchronisation with different services now questions the need to link it to voter IDs. The problem of ghost voters benefits political parties differently at different times. Demanding transparency in all spheres but finding reasons to exclude areas that directly affect your political fortunes, unfortunately, smacks of cynicism. This can hardly help a government, which is currently in the midst of an elaborate court battle to defend the need for Aadhaar and address privacy concerns.