Shamya Dasgupta’s Airtel phone number was deactivated. When he approached customer care, he was told to provide an Aadhaar and get a new SIM. While at the Airtel outlet, he met several other people in the same situation.

Several people have complained about this on social media.


This is particularly effective coercion, because the Aadhaar itself being linked to the phone, if a person has deactivated biometrics for safety, they can get completely locked out of their Aadhaar and can no longer abandon a SIM over telecom operator malpractice. Essentially, the Aadhaar holder has no alternative but to link the Aadhaar to the phone.

Airtel has denied this malpractice.

However, it doesn’t explain how countless people are reporting exactly this phenomenon with their service: SIM deactivated. On contacting customer care, they are told they will require new SIM and that can only be obtained with Aadhaar. When they go to get the new SIM, they meet many other people in the same situation. Either Airtel as a telecom service provider is collapsing, or they are flat out lying in public while using illegal methods to exploit Aadhaar AGAIN. Deactivated SIMs are not reactivated, because SIM reactivation does not require Aadhaar, but procuring new SIMs does – due to illegal orders being imposed on people.

In the past, Airtel has opened bank accounts of people validating their SIMs with Aadhaar without their knowledge and appropriated their subsidies into Airtel accounts the customers didn’t even know they had. And there are Aadhaar linking scams as well. People have used the issuing of a new SIM to steal money from bank accounts.

Forcing people to link their Aadhaar to their SIM card before March 31, 2018 illegally denies citizens the right to wait for the Supreme Court to uphold their fundamental rights.

We have already seen that the UIDAI cannot prevent malpractice of this sort, because they cannot afford to suspend the Aadhaar licences for banks or telecoms. So whether AXIS Bank or Airtel, they know. No matter what they do, if it forces people to link Aadhaar, UIDAI will only approve. If they get caught in rampant illegality, at best their licence will be suspended for a few days.

Vidyut is a commentator on socio-political issues with a keen understanding of tech and policy. She has been observing and commenting on Aadhaar since 2010 from a perspective of human rights, democracy and technological robustness.

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