Mamata Banerjee Drags Centre to Supreme Court Over Its Aadhaar Policy

The West Bengal chief minister is protesting the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. Credit: PTI

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee continues to up the ante in her fight against the BJP and its policies. In yet another act of defiance, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader on Friday (October 27)  dragged the Centre to the Supreme Court over making Aadhaar mandatory for financial transactions and availing social welfare benefits. The case is expected to be heard in court on October 30.

With the BJP fast replacing the once formidable Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) as the main opposition in Bengal, Banerjee has trained her guns on the party, identifying it as her primary political adversary. Over the past six months, Banerjee has made clear her determination to resist the Centre’s move to push through controversial policies that she and her party do not endorse. From all indications, she has no intentions of retreating from the fight.

Clearly, Aadhaar has continued to be at the centre of a continued political tug-of-war between Bengal and the Centre. Earlier this week, at her own party meeting, the chief minister had said she will not link her mobile phone number with Aadhaar. “I will not link Aadhaar with my phone, if they want to disconnect my phone, let them,” Banerjee told her party colleagues.

Attacking the Centre for intruding into people’s privacy, the chief minister said, “They [the Centre] are interfering in the people’s rights and privacy. The Aadhaar number should not be linked with one’s mobile phone.”

While sections of civil society have already petitioned the court on the government decision to link Aadhaar with mobile numbers, bank accounts and filing of income tax returns, Banerjee’s clearly is the most vociferous voice to have emerged from within the opposition ranks.

Her protest is likely to resonate with underprivileged families, many of whom are being denied basic welfare services simply because they do not possess Aadhaar numbers. For instance, recently an 11-year-old died of starvation in Jharkhand’s Simdega district after her family’s ration card was cancelled for not being linked to their Aadhaar number, activists alleged. Government authorities though have stuck to the claim that Santoshi Kumari from Karimati village died of malaria and not hunger.

(With PTI inputs)

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  • Mamata Banerjee is right in challenging this Aadhaar issue in the Supreme Court. As Aakash Joshi in a piercingly perceptive piece published in today’s Indian Express titled “Dystopia, Privatised” says, Aadhaar is quite like the Chinese government’s initiative to develop a Social Credit System (SCS). The SCS aims at determining the “trustworthiness” of its citizens: “It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity…” As Joshi writes: “Everything from what you read, how you spend your time (watching Netflix for eight hours a day will let the state know you’re a bum) and money, to what you post on social media will affect your SCS score, which in turn will allow you benefits like cheaper loans, housing and easier access to travel documents. Negative posts on social media about the government or party may well reduce your score, as will interacting with people who are ‘untrustworthy’. Fundamentally speaking, the Orwellian nightmare is complete” Aadhaar will – and can do much the same. When you recall that the Aadhaar Bill was passed surreptitiously as a money bill to preempt the Rajya Sabha from discussing the issues, the spectre of Orwell’s 1984 is complete. Not to miss the intent of this government. Citizens are being corralled without realizing they are, which is heinous to say the least – their privacy knocked down inchmeal and reduced to something akin to government property and open to manipulation at the whims and fancies of the Government or its loyal instruments to blackmail and intimidate the chosen citizens. To quote Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, one of the judges of the 9-nine bench that dealt with the Right to Privacy case: “Privacy is an inherent right. It is thus not given, but already exists… (it) is nothing but a form of dignity, which itself is a subset of liberty…Privacy is also the key to freedom of thought. A person has a right to think.” Though apologists of Aadhaar will continue to argue in its favour in the name of material development and elimination of corruption, the larger question that should haunt us is the brooding spirit of “dignity”, and, if a life of comfort and luxury outweighs a life of human dignity and honour. Though abstruse and in the realm of higher cognition, its insignificance should not be missed. And not to forget that Adolf Hitler indeed took full advantage of his predecessor government’s hiring of IBM’s services for census, including racial census, which facilitated easy counting and easier identification of Jews.