Roles were reversed in Rajya Sabha Monday with the progenitors of Aadhaar turning its critics and those who had slammed the concept defending it during a short duration discussion. Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, who by his own admission was present at the conception of Aadhaar, called it an “instrument of exclusion” and drew parallels with the NDA;s implementation of that concept to the sterilisation drive during emergency. “What sterilisation was to the Emergency, Aadhaar seeding is becoming to your government. It is a target-oriented approach, 100 per cent seeding in every programme,” Ramesh said while giving examples from PDS and old-age pension to show how people were being denied their entitlements for lack of Aadhar. “I know you will say that it is not mandatory. But, it is compulsorily mandatorily voluntary,” he said.
While Opposition MPs quoted then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s statements against Aadhaar, including a commitment at an election rally in April 2014 to scrap it should he become prime minister, treasury benches including IT minister Ravishankar Prasad tried to dismiss that opposition as one stemming from the lack of statutory backing for Aadhaar in the UPA era.
Prasad, however, did not shy away from crediting the Congress for having envisaged Aadhar. “Some of my friends in the Congress are repeatedly trying to paint Aadhaar as the biggest curse to have happened for the country. Sorry, don’t do that. You have created it and we compliment you,” Prasad said.
He refuted Opposition allegations that the present mode of implementation of Aadhar violates the orders of the Supreme Court and assured the House not just of the safety of Aadhaar data but also that no poor person would be deprived of their entitlements for not having an Aadhaar. He also said 32,000 private companies have been blacklisted in the interest of data protection.
BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe credited former deputy PM L K Advani for having conceptualised Aadhaar; Ramesh told him what Advani had envisaged was a proof of citizenship and not one of identity.
Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien said: “Don’t get me wrong; we are all for Aadhaar. But, in implementation of Aadhaar, we have some serious issues. As I said, privacy may be a middle class or an upper middle class perception issue. Sir, it is not; it is an issue which hurt the marginalised.”