Getting harder and harder to recognise the trap. Irony as an experience is underrated. Of course, it is mostly an experience enjoyed by those who witness it, rather than those who experience it. Such is the case with Prabhakar HL, the project director for Aadhaar (UID) in Karnataka.

Prabhakar, a resident of Bangalore, who works at the Centre for e-Governance, found his cell phone’s SIM card deactivated on January 14, according to a report in Bangalore Mirror. Upon checking with the customer care, he was told that the telecom company had deactivated his SIM card because it was not linked to his Aadhaar card. And, if you’re wondering why on earth an Aadhaar project director – who has been one of the key persons driving the Aadhaar project in the state – would not connect his phone to the blessed card (which is exactly what the UIDAI has been egging people on to do), it gets better.

It so happens that Prabhakar had linked his Aadhaar through OTP authentication. Yet, the company insisted that he give his fingerprints to restore the connection. In vain – he refused to give his fingerprints, arguing that he is aware of the law (one should hope so), and the law doesn’t require him to do so.

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“On Monday morning, my phone stopped working and I had no clue what could have gone wrong,” Prabhakar told Bangalore Mirror. “I called up the customer care and, initially, they said it was a technical glitch. After repeated calls, I was asked to go to a customer care outlet and give my fingerprints for Aadhaar linking. I told them that my Aadhaar verification process is done and I know the rules.”

“This is absolutely ridiculous. Why should I prove my identity to them all over again? I had given my documents when I got the connection and I have also done the Aadhaar authentication. The irony is that I head the division that gives identity cards to people and the cell phone service provider is trying to fool me,” he added.

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Even if the irony is obvious to Prabhakar, are the rules clear to people at large?

Despite the fact that telecom companies constantly badger their customers with constant messages, asking them to connect their SIM cards to Aadhaar, there is, at present, no need for it.

In fact, that Prabhakar’s SIM was deactivated is also against the law. Telecom companies are duping – yes there is no other way to say it – customers into believing that phone numbers have to be linked with your Aadhaar number citing a circular issued on March 23, 2017 by the Department of Telecom (DoT), despite the fact that the Supreme Court has yet to pass an order on whether Aadhaar infringes upon the right to privacy.

Additionally, the deadline for linking one’s SIM card to Aadhaar, that is March 31, 2018, may soon be extended.

UIDAI officials are likely to engage with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the issue of extending this deadline, reported Economic Times.

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And even if one has to link their SIM cards to their Aadhaar, a UIDAI notification states, “By December 1, 2017, one can also choose to verify their mobile SIM with Aadhaar without giving one’s biometrics to Telecom Service Providers.”

This means telecom service providers will not need to verify biometric details to link mobile numbers with Aadhaar. The only verification will be in the form of an OTP – a One Time Password. “The Aadhaar holder should provide this OTP along with his Aadhaar number during authentication and the same shall be matched with the OTP generated by the Authority,” says the UIDAI website.

It is indeed sad that Mr Prabhakar has had to face this inconvenience at the hands of a telecom company. But it is also an experience he should recall the next time he provides valuable feedback to the people who are in charge of implementing this “digital leash” all across the nation. #KhbrLive

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