Cardinal card

This week, I received a mail from a reader with the simple message: ‘Dear sir, write about Aadhaar card or I will commit suicide’.

Another letter, coincidentally received this week itself, said ‘hi, when you pen about Aadhaar card, make it in Q and A format for our easy understanding. If you don’t, I will kill the gent in the previous paragraph’.

Taking into view the popular clamour, here it goes:

Why do we need the Aadhaar card?

Sometimes the most difficult thing to prove is: you. We mean, how do you prove that you are indeed you.  But luckily India being a spiritually-evolved country, you can establish your ‘yourness’ here through what the philosophers and Vedic sages term as ration card.

Being an existentialist tool, the ration card is, however, not easy to acquire. You probably need a driving licence for getting it. To obtain which you will need a vehicle? No, to get a driving licence you will have to have — this should be obvious even to a kid —- a telephone. And then there is the passport, which is an important international travel document used for the explicit purpose of securing a landline here.

Anyway, if you have none of these, it doesn’t mean you don’t exist. You still have hope in the form of Notary Public. Quite possibly a complete stranger to your life — one who can’t even spell your name right unless you give graphic instructions — he will still vouch to the world, in a stamped paper, that you are indeed you. He does this because he is a 1) a government-recognised authority 2) you pay him a fee to do so.

As you can see, the whole process can be pretty complicated and cumbersome. But you no longer need to fritter away your energy in trying to secure so many different documents. For, the multi-purpose Aadhaar is here, and you can fritter away all your energy in trying to secure this one card itself.

Since the Aadhaar project is based mostly on census data, can you give us a brief history of census operations in India?

In India, the official census exercise is taken up once every ten years, and basically the job of Census Commission officials is to act busy for the better part of nine years.

In its early days, the Census Commission went about the task of population enumeration by lining up all the people at the village centre and having a head count. In his compilation The Early History Of India, Oxford scholar William Bentley had this to say about the first ever census of India: ‘The enumeration exercise ran into unexpected rough weather when the Census officials couldn’t make up their mind on whether to include themselves in the population count or not’. He added: ‘After some frantic head-scratching, it was decided that the officials should also be included. This resulted in a piquant situation, as it was found that the Census enumerators outnumbered the general population by two is to one”. Evidently, bloated bureaucracy was a thing even then.

Census enumeration, which throws up crucial demographic details, helps the government to come up with focussed welfare programmes. For instance, it was after the last census exercise it became evident to the government that Karunandhi’s family was large enough to deserve an electoral constituency and Naval command of its own.

Getting back to Aadhaar, what does the card contain and how helpful it will be?

First we will take a close look into the name Aadhaar. Okay, now that we have had a look, we will move on to the next paragraph.

The highlight of Aadhar is that it will carry a 12-digit number, unique to every individual in this country, making it clear that the card will become practically useless in a few years time considering the rate at which the population is growing.

The unique number will be stored in a centralised database, making it extremely handy for hackers and other cyber criminals to practise their skills on.

The Aadhaar card will contain many unique biometric details like your fingerprint, your iris imprint and, if you are a woman, the colour of your dupatta.

What if all the personal details, which I provide to the Aadhaar authorities, fall into some private hands?

Your worry on this count is totally misplaced. To reassure you, let us categorically state that all your personal details are actually already with many private parties. And you yourselves have parted with them at various points.

What happens if I lose my Aadhaar card?

Nothing to worry. You will not be arrested. You will merely be extradited.

What if the Aadhaar card project turns out to be a failure?

Infosys will lose Re.1 every month.

For, it will probably have to contend with one more executive chairman on a comeback.