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Developmental Issues

The Lok Sabha cleared the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by a voice vote on Thursday.

The Bill replaces an Ordinance promulgated on March 2 and provides for a stiff Rs. 1 crore penalty and a jail term to private entities for storing Aadhaar data.

It also makes the use of Aadhaar voluntary for opening a bank account, securing a mobile phone connection, or receiving treatment at a hospital.

Data protection

Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, speaking about the Bill, assured the House that the government is also working on a data protection Bill, which will be brought in at a later date to ensure data privacy for all Indians.

“Aadhaar is voluntary. It is a wholesome amendment in compliance with the Supreme Court order and it is also a mark of the trust that the common man has in this government,” he said.

“There is a clear injunction that data or biometrics cannot be stored. The benefits of the scheme will not be denied to someone who does not have Aadhaar. If privacy is the question being raised, I want to ask: if the people of the country are happy, why are some members of the House unhappy? We have ensured safeguards for the prohibition of data theft, then why is there a protest over Aadhaar,” Mr. Prasad asked.

Speaking on the possible violation of the Supreme Court judgment on Aadhaar, as raised by several members of the Opposition, the Minister replied: “Let us not together work towards bringing down the power that this Parliament has give to us. The Parliament has been given power to frame laws, and we are not violating the Supreme Court judgment.”

“I want to reassure everyone that our government will work with honesty and transparency. This is my Aadhaar card [Mr. Prasad held up his card in the House]. This has my name and some very basic information about me but what it does not have is my race, religion, caste. My biometric details, which are in the system, cannot be accessed under any provision, and it has been written under the law. People have given us the majority to frame laws, [it] does not mean we are violating the Supreme Court’s judgment.”

The Bill saw stiff Opposition in the House. Trinamool Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mahua Moitra said the Bill strikes at the very heart of an individual’s privacy.

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