New Delhi: Usha Ramanathan, a legal researcher and activist based in Delhi, has been declared a ‘human rights hero’ by international rights group Access Now for her criticism of the Aadhaar programme. Since the scheme was launched in 2009, Ramanathan has been raising the security and privacy risks associated with it, as well as the concerns on linking the programme to welfare schemes.
While felicitating Ramanathan’s “tireless” efforts to highlight the issues related to Aadhaar, Access Now has said that it also wants to “recognise the entire community that has protested and litigated against Aadhaar”.
The award function will be held in Tunis between June 11 and 14, as a part of RightsCon. The awards will be handed out by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.
Describing the award, Access Now says, “In celebration of…the work of people around the globe to protect human rights in the digital age, every year Access Now names “heroes” and “villains” who have either protected the principles of freedom online, or worked to undermine them.”
There are a total of five winners this year. Other than Ramanathan, Bahraini activist and digital security consultant Mohammed Al-Maskati, Australian human rights lawyer, broadcaster and writer Lizzie O’Shea, Tanzanian digital security trainer Zaituni Njovu and Venezuelan lawyer, writer and human rights activist Marianne Díaz Hernández have also been designated ‘heroes’.
In September 2018, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Aadhaar law, but placed strict restrictions on its scope. Before the final judgment, the court had passed a number of orders which were conveniently ignored by the administration, Ramanathan and others have pointed out.
Ramanathan has written a number of articles on why the programme needs to be rebooted, and the risks it poses to people’s privacy. A number of her articles have been published in The Wire.
You can read The Wire‘s full coverage of the Aadhaar programme here.