TRAI chief did more harm to Aadhaar cause

Sushil Kutty

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]am Sevak Sharma is an adventurer. Somebody illegal alien hacked into his bank a/c and deposited Re 1 there. A direct to bank a/c beneficiary, redeemer of government scheme, Ram Sevak is proof that Modi’s Jan Dhan Yojana is working. It’s another matter that the miser hacker could do with some money transfer himself. Anybody with just Re 1 to part is in serious financial crap.

Sharma is chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Last Friday, he posted his 12-digit Aadhaar number and dared twitterati to do zilch to him. Twitterati took up the challenge and made life hell for his phone battery! Poor battered Sevak Sharma went to bed Monday night with the plea, “Friends. Let’s reconvene tomorrow. Small request, the failed Aadhaar Authentication requests (OTP’s) are really draining my battery. I’m always ready for constructive discussions. If you have any suggestions please share.”

What a fallout! It was the same Ram Sevak Sharma who went to town with “my Aadhaar number is 7621 7768 2740…Show me one concrete example where you can do any harm to me!” The miser-hacker checked his pocket-change and decided he could do without the one rupee he kept in his wallet for luck!

That is chillar people keep for the one-eyed beggar who stations himself at the bottom-most stair of the seediyan leading to the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, Palikka Bazar-end. Sevak Ram’s “citizenship” challenge and the response to it proved once and for all that there is no stopping “illegal aliens” if they get it into their heads to intrude, squat.

The 40 lakh of Assam whose names do not figure in the NRC draft list will not see the irony in Ram Sevak’s hacked life. The man was director-general of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency in charge of Aadhaar database. Whatever harm Sharma could not do when he bossed UIDAI, he has managed to get it done when out of UIDAI.

The personal loss is telling. Now not only does the teller of his bank know his bank a/c number, the hoi polloi on Twitterati also do. His phone number. His marriage status. All are online. But our hero, except for Monday night’s whimper, maintains that no harm has been done to him. In multiple tweets, Sharma has maintained that revealing 12-digits doesn’t mean his life’s gone in 12 different directions.

One Twitter-user let it out that he has used Ram Sevak’s Aadhaar details to order a smartphone cash-on-delivery! Sharma hasn’t come forward to clarify. Must be because UIDAI jumped in with a statement that Sharma’s vital statistics mobile number, date of birth et al were available online on other sites. “No such information about Mr Sharma has been fetched from UIDAI’s servers or Aadhaar database.”

So pipe down! Get the hell out. Squatters. Illegal aliens. Okay. But the trouble is less for Ram Sevak and more for UIDAI. Aadhaar, when it was born was a clean-cut baby, a normal delivery, with very little labour pain. But since then, the baby, according to some who have watched it grow, has transformed into a little monster, with the green eyes of the Peeping Tom! The Aadhaar number is now on everybody’s tight lips.

The “default” for identifying Tom from Dick and Harry from Tom and Dick. Jio and Vodafone and Airtel, not to speak of Idea Sirjee, all want to know Aadhaar from close quarters. Income Tax returns without Aadhaar and IT-holder can land in the lock-up for tax evasion.

Most important of all, the apex court is looking at Aadhaar with hawk eyes. Ram Sevak, when he was Pradhan Sevak of UIDAI, used to be a constant presence at every Supreme Court hearing on Aadhaar, his motherly instincts on test. “I learned much about Aadhaar at the hearings,” he told ‘Walk The Talk’ Shekhar Gupta at one face-off.

The Supreme Court of India will be pronouncing verdict on Aadhaar any day, including on the privacy issue. Just the other week, the Justice BN Srikrishna-led committee, formed to create a powerful data protection law, submitted its draft bill to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY). The Data Protection Bill 2018 has recommended that the Aadhaar Act needs to be amended to bolster privacy protections, ensure UIDAI autonomy.

Ram Sevak Sharma has with one tweet done more harm to the Aadhaar cause. His privacy is out in public glare and his Smartphone battery is the one which is getting the short-end of the stick. Now, if only we get to know which brand of mobile, we can go after the illegal alien with all the heft that comes with Being Indian! Mamata Banerjee’s ‘Being Human’ doesn’t fetch even Re 1 in the corridors of Ram Sevaks or the BJP!

(Author is a political commentator)