Electoral Reforms In India

Why the Aadhaar-voter ID link must be stopped

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Aadhar-voter ID linking issue

Context

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which facilitates amendment to the Representation of People’s Act, is a step toward implementing online-based remote e-voting for which the use of Aadhaar will be the primary identity.

Objectives of linking

  • The linking of Aadhaar with one’s voter ID was primarily to build a biometric dependent voting system from the very beginning.
  • The change could help fight fraud and duplicates in the electoral rolls.

About the pilot programmes on linking the voter id

  • In 2014, the Election Commission of India (ECI) conducted two pilot programmes on linking the voter id with Aadhaar in the districts of Nizamabad and Hyderabad.
  • Based on the effectiveness, the ECI called for a National Consultation on Aadhaar and voter id linking.
  • The ECI launched the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) on April 1, 2015, which had to be completed by August 31, 2015.
  • After a Supreme Court of India order on August 11, 2015, it was announced that this NERPAP would be shut down.
  • But as Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were early adopters of this programme since 2014, both States have nearly completed linking Aadhaar and voter id for all residents.
  • Methodology is unknown: The methodology followed by the ECI to find duplicate voters using Aadhaar is unknown to the general public.
  • SRDH data used: In a letter from the CEO Andhra Pradesh (then for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) to the ECI, it is clear that the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) application of the Government of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh was used to curate electoral rolls.
  • The SRDH has data on residents of the State which is supplied by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) or collected further by the State governments.
  •  While the UIDAI was constrained not to collect data on caste, religion and other sensitive information data for Aadhaar, it recommended to the States to collect this information, if required, as part of Aadhaar data collection; it termed the process as Know Your Resident (KYR) and Know Your Resident Plus (KYR+).
  • It is these SRDH applications that the ECI used to curate electoral rolls which resulted in the deletion of a sizeable number of voters from the list in Telangana in 2018.

Concerns

  • Disenfranchisement: The role of the ECI to verify voters using door-to-door verification (in 2015) has been subsumed; a software algorithm commissioned by the Government for purposes unknown to the public and maintained by a private IT company is in control now.
  • Subjecting key electoral rolls to surveillance software damages the concept of universal adult suffrage.
  • What the experience in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh highlights is voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
  • Issue of ensuring electoral integrity: In a situation where the role of money makes a mockery of the democratic process, linking Aadhaar will be futile.
  • Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), if foolproof, put an end to the days of booth capturing prevalent in the days of paper ballots.
  • E-voting can also be gamed using malware to change the outcome of an election.
  • While the Bill does not look into large-scale e-voting, there is an issue of ensuring electoral integrity.
  • Voter profiling: An Aadhaar-voter ID linkage will also help political parties create voter profiles and influence the voting process.
  • Online trends on the day of voting and micro-targeting voters using their data will make it easier for political parties in power to use data for elections.

Consider the question “What are the objectives of Aadhar-Voter Id linking? What are the concerns associated with such linking?”

Conclusion

The linking of Aadhaar with voter ID will create complexities in the voter databases that will be hard to fix. This process will introduce errors in electoral rolls and vastly impact India’s electoral democracy.

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