New Guidelines See Home Ministry Ease Up on Compulsory Use of Aarogya Setu in Offices

While earlier guidelines said it would be 'mandatory', the rules now say employers should on a 'best effort basis' ensure that all employees install the app.

New Delhi: India’s home affairs ministry appears to have eased earlier restrictions it placed on mandatory usage of the Aarogya Setu contact tracing app in office workplaces and within containment zones.

According to guidelines issued by the ministry on Sunday evening (May 17), private sector employers should on a “best effort basis” ensure that Aarogya Setu is “installed by all employees having compatible phones” in order to ensure safety in offices and the workplace.

This is a climbdown from the ministry’s order on May 1, which stated that the app would be “mandatory for all employees, both private and public” and placed the onus of compliance on the owner of a business or head of the organisation.

“Use of Arogya Setu app shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public. It shall be the responsibility of the Head of the respective organizations to ensure 100% coverage of this app among the employees,” the MHA guidelines released at the start of this month said.

This had sparked criticism both by private sector stakeholders and privacy advocates, who argued that making it mandatory violated the spirit of the consent-based agreement that users sign when they download the app.

May 17 guidelines by MHA. Credit: Centre


May 1 guidelines put out by MHA. Credit: Centre

The latest guidelines also make no mention of whether Aarogya Setu is required to be downloaded by people who live within a containment zone.

For instance, until now, the MHA rule was that there should be “100% coverage of the app among residents of a containment zone”.

The new rules, however, merely state that relevant district authorities “may advise” individuals to install Aarogya Setu on compatible mobile phone apps.

In the last month, the contact tracing app has been pushed into the lives of millions of Indians through different ways.

While the term ‘mandatory’ may have been dropped from guidelines for usage in the workplace, the app is still required for air travel, train travel and even for most central government employees.