Campaign to “Opt Out” Of Aadhaar Gathers Steam In Meghalaya

The CM along with the Khasi Students Union and churches in Meghalaya oppose Aadhaar on grounds of privacy violation.

4 min read
The states of Meghalaya and Assam have the lowest percentage of people enrolled

Nearly 300 people in Meghalaya have joined a campaign to give up their Aadhaar cards, alleging that the 12-digit identification number could lead to non-indigenous people getting voting rights.

The Aadhaar enrolment process has faced stiff resistance in the north-eastern state ever since registrations began in June this year, with the influential Khasi Students Union (KSU) and churches opposing it on grounds of privacy infringement besides the issue of voting rights for non-natives.

Altogether, 286 people have submitted letters to the Meghalaya People Committee on Aadhaar (MPCA) on the third day of the campaign to “opt out” of Aadhaar, requesting deletion of their Aadhaar numbers from the Unique Identification Authority of India's database.

The campaign is on and will conclude on 3 November. We hope to collect enough letters before we could move the authorities concerned for necessary deletion.
Auguster Jyrwa, MPCA Secretary

MPCA is an umbrella organisation under the KSU and the Thma u Rangli u Juli (TUR), a progressive people's group.

The students union comprises about 5,000 people who have voluntarily not registered for Aadhaar.

The Meghalaya People Committee on Aadhaar is working on a common centre for people across the state to receive the letters from those who want their Aadhaar details to be removed from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) database, Jyrwa said.

There are enough doubts that the Aadhaar number will be misused in surveillance and control by the powers that be. We have to be extra careful before we commit ourselves to the unknown.
Angela Rangad, MPCA member and TUR convener

Over 4.6 lakh people in Meghalaya have Aadhaar numbers, and the registration process for new ones is underway, a UIDAI official told PTI.

"Till date, 4.63 lakh of the 3.2 million people (about 14 percent) in the state have enrolled for Aadhaar," the official said.

The KSU has opposed the Aadhaar project saying that it might provide illegal immigrants a chance to claim citizenship easily and rattle the demographic balance of the state.

We are more concerned about matters of privacy and surveillance. The committee is a way for people of different ideologies to come together to oppose Aadhaar. When you sign up for Aadhaar, you are not asked whether you agree/disagree to your biometric data being used and linked to other databases or used by a third party-and that is one of the big problems with Aadhaar. Your PAN, for instance, is not seeded into other databases. When we send this letter to UIDAI, saying that we withdraw our consent to our data being used by other parties, we want to see how they will respond. If the UIDAI says that they deny our withdrawal of consent, we might think of approaching the courts, especially after the Supreme Court judgment on privacy.
Tarun Bhartiya, Member of TUR talking to The Indian Express

The MPCA conducted a public meeting on Monday where they also paid respects to Santoshi, the 11-year-old girl from Jharkhand, who allegedly lost her life due to starvation because her family could not buy rations as their Aadhaar card was not linked to the PDS system, The Indian Express reported.

Indian Express further reported that the Aadhaar project has been the least successful in the two states of Meghalaya and Assam. Both have the lowest percentage of people enrolled — 14.3 percent and 7.1 percent, according to data available on the UIDAI website.

CM Not Enrolled Yet

Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said on Wednesday that he was yet to enroll himself for Aadhaar as he shared the concern of the people over the right to privacy.

"I have not registered for Aadhaar number. I share the same concern with my people. (Our) right to privacy is important in a democracy, else the whole idea of democracy is diluted," Mukul told reporters in Shillong.

I and my (Assam) counterpart Sonowalji have discussed and written to the Government of India. We both agreed to move in the right direction and our stand remains and we are moving together. The issue is that we are in a situation which is different from other states. The kind of problem due to illegal immigration and influx is a common concern of the people of Meghalaya and Assam and the entire North East.
Mukul Sangma, CM, Meghalaya
The Chief Ministers of Meghalaya and Assam had earlier shot off a letter to the Centre seeking exemption from Aadhaar.

"What we are saying is not to make it compulsory and binding for Meghalaya (and Assam)," he said, adding that the registration is going on in the state for the convenience of students who are studying outside the state.

Sangma claimed there were "lots of confusion" with regards to registration for Aadhaar number and "we want complete clarity on the matter".

Different authorities are giving diverse directions and inter-ministerial engagement is missing, synergy is missing and dialogue is missing.

In Meghalaya, the registration for Aadhaar number has crossed over 14 percent of the population, ahead of Assam (as per UIDAI statistics), following the resumption of Aadhaar registration in June 2017.

(With inputs from PTI)

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