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Despite government extending the deadline for mandatory linking Aadhaar to avail benefits of various welfare schemes to March 31, there are companies that are insisting on giving Aadhaar details to avail numerous services.
Last week there were media reports that Cigna TTK Health Insurance had apparently told the family of a policyholder that they could not avail cashless treatment as she did not have an Aadhaar card. Sandeep Patel, MD & CEO at Cigna TTK Health Insurance said, “The customer’s wife was admitted to Chennai’s Fortis Hospital. The pre-authorization was approved immediately by Cigna TTK Health Insurance. As part of the process, three major documents were requested, hospital bills, diagnostic reports and Aadhaar / PAN and Form 60. Subsequently, the customer informed the third party administrator (TPA) that she did not have an Aadhaar card and the same was relayed to Cigna TTK Health Insurance. As you would know, there are different levels of approval when a cashless claim is requested, we, at Cigna TTK Health Insurance, followed the required approval processes and her claim was accepted and approved within 10 minutes.”
However, activists and lawyers say there is no compulsion to submit Aadhaar for availing services. “One should understand that order by Supreme Court doesn’t say that Aadhaar is mandatory. It’s been consistently told by the Supreme Court since 2013 that Aadhaar is voluntary and not mandatory. Companies who are asking for compulsory Aadhaar are attempting to outwit the Supreme Court order through different procedures. They are counting on the digital ignorance of the SC judges,” said Gopal Krishna, Convener of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL).
The government has extended to March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail the benefits of various welfare schemes. That includes many numerous schemes including free cooking gas (LPG) to poor women, kerosene and fertilizer subsidy and targeted public distribution system (PDS). Even financial products like insurance, mutual funds, small saving schemes and banks account among others categories where investors/policyholders need to link their Aadhaar with their investments. Aadhaar is issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to a resident of India.
There are people who think that data is the next big thing and companies want to cash on this to do more business. “Some companies see an opportunity in the present climate to collect data; and, if data is indeed the new oil, that could mean business and profits. For some others, the government's threat that not collecting unique identity number (UID) numbers will be seen as disobedience of government expectations is enough. Many others are blindly doing what seems to be the order of the day. The one thing that is clear is that it is the government, and not the law, that seems to mater with the companies,” said Usha Ramanathan independent law researcher.
In 2013, the court first said no one should be denied any service because someone does not have a UID. In August 2015, the court directed that the UID cannot be used anywhere other than in PDS and LPG distribution, and even there it must be voluntary. In October 2015, the court allowed its extension to four more areas of application - NREGA, social security pension, provident fund and Jan Dhan Yojana.
Activists categorically say extension given by the government is for the people who have Aadhaar and want to link it with the services. It doesn’t apply to people who don’t have an Aadhaar and there is no penal consequence for people who don’t want to link Aadhaar.