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NEW DELHI: Faced with criticism for forcing people to link their Aadhaar numbers with their mobile connection, thereby creating scope for privacy invasion, the government is considering the option of allowing other identity proofs to complete the verification process. These IDs could include ration card, driver’s license and passport.
“We are ready to explore other options. We are looking at whether a ration card, or a driver’s license, or some other authentication document can be used. No final call has been taken on the matter though,” an official source said.
The source further added, “It must be in conformity with the mandate laid down by the Supreme Court. We cannot dilute the process.”
The telecom ministry had issued instructions to mobile companies to link Aadhaar with mobile phones after a suggestion by the Supreme Court (on a plea filed by Lok Niti foundation) for a credible authentication mechanism. If the authentication process is not completed by February next year, mobile service could be disconnected.
However, the decision of Aadhaar-linkage for mobile phones has been criticised and there has been a fresh petition in the Supreme Court challenging the move.
The source said that the government is mindful of the petitions in the apex court. “We will also wait to see what the court says further on this.”
Seperately, the government said it would soon issue instructions to ensure authentication for people who do not have an Aadhaar card. “We will be putting in place a mechanism to ensure their authentication as well,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on the issue.
Earlier, telecom minister Manoj Sinha announced three new ways to complete the process of Aadhaar authentication with mobile number–through OTP (one-time password), an app or through an IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) facility.
While the authentication by visiting stores of telecom companies will continue, the government has also ordered that operators carry out the exercise at the doorsteps of the disabled, chronically-ill and senior citizens.
“It is the government’s endeavour to improve convenience and reduce time and energy spent by consumers to accessing government information and services,” Sinha said.
Nearly 50 crore mobile numbers are already registered in the Aadhaar database. However, there has been major discontent amongst many mobile customers over the manner in which the authentication process is being carried out by telecom companies.
Consumers allege that they are being bombarded with messages by telecom companies to link the numbers or face immediate disconnection (despite the deadline being February 2018). Also, the biometric process has failed on many occasions due to problems with machines.
Sundararajan said that in the case of agent-assisted biometric authentication for SIM re-verification or issuance, telecom companies have been asked to ensure that full e-KYC details of subscribers are not made visible to the agent. Nor should data be stored on the agent’s device. At present, e-KYC data of the subscriber, including photograph, is visible to the agent of the telecom operator.