The thoughtless implementation of Aadhaar has led countless operators to make investment in equipment (they had to purchase equipment – it was not provided by UIDAI for conducting enrolments) that is very specific to Aadhaar work, and the abrupt discontinuation of contracts, because UIDAI belatedly realizes that data being collected by private operators is problematic, is wreaking havoc on their finances. They are left with poor choices because they trusted in an apparently innovative business opportunity and wholly legally applied for it.

Contrary to the information presented to the public, it isn’t only operators accused of malpractice or found to be engaging in malpractice that are being denied continuation of their licences, but almost all private operators are being phased out. The government responses in the Parliament confirm this. The following is constructed from responses to an interview with an Aadhaar operator who has been informed to move his operation to government premises or be discontinued. He prefers to be anonymous due to fear of retribution.

We started conducting aadhaar enrollment in May 2015.

Our initial investment was arount 1.5 lakh rupees. Recurring monthly expenses include computer operator salaries, who are available on commission basis for around 5 to 10 K per month. Plus for management you may need 1 – 3 more people, such as for providing information filling forms checking documents, checking aadhaar status and printing documents for already enrolled residents. We used to do about 100+ enrollment per day, so we needed 2 aadhaar enrollment operator + 3 computer Operators for handling crowd and solving their problem.

We run a cyber cafe in our area (which is semi rural area). Because of Aadhaar work we were able to provide job to 5 people including me.

I asked him about data theft or sale of enrolment data by operators. He is unaware of the practice in their semi-rural area, even with other operators.

Usually data theft is not possible in an Aadhaar card. Nothing is stored in computer, as soon as we enroll the resident and upload the data all the data is automatically deleted from our computers. Plus the data that is stored in our computer cannot be read as it is encrypted and stored in different format. And I have not heard of any data theft or data selling issue in our area.

I asked him about operator fingerprints getting recorded while capturing data for Aadhaar holders.

Earlier operators were very unaware what is aadhaar. Aadhaar operators gets just 5K to 8K per month so you wont find highly qualified operators in any enrollment center. It is possible that some operators willfully/mischievously or unknowingly attached their finger print to enrollment of resident.

While sometimes because your fingers are dirty, they leave a print on fingerprint scanner, if you don’t clean the scanner, they are recorded during enrollment process, if operator is not paying attention. There are many reasons but we never encountered such problems.

I asked him what the problem was, if he had to operate from government premises.

We have to move to government premises to make sure our enrollment is still running. The only problem is that If we move our enrollment center to government premises how should we run our shop, for small business owner it is difficult to divide their operations into two different places.

New Aadhaar enrollment doesn’t have much revenue. UIDAI doesn’t directly pays enrollment operators. for every fresh enrollment enrollment operator gets Rs. 17.5 to 25 based on Enrollment Agency, but that too is after 6 months.
If a resident visits enrollment center for a fresh Aadhaar card, we are totally unaware if the resident already has Aadhaar card or not and the government doesn’t pay for duplicate enrollment. The operator must do it free of cost so its a gamble.

For every enrollment, an operator requires atleast 10 to 15 minutes and that means 5 to 6 enrollments per hour. If you work 6 to 8 Hours per day you earn Rs. 1,200 per day MAX (and that is if only customers who want to get their data updated keep coming continuously.) But there are new enrollments too, so our daily income is about Rs 600 to 800 per day.

Enrollment operator does a enrollment free of cost then uploads the data, if the enrollment is duplicate or rejected because of any reason, what-so-ever, the enrollment operator won’t get commission. We get commission after 6 months of enrollment generation. UIDAI rules says 4 months but enrollment agency pays after 6 months to 1 year or some agencies never pay the enrollment operator.

For updation of Aadhaar data, the enrollment operator is allowed to take 25 rupee. (This is the real source of Income). We also earn money by printing aadhaar card.

Some operators charge 100 to 200 per aadhaar card, and this sort of corruption is not justified, plus there is some privacy issue, Government dont want residents data in private hands and so the UIDAI wants to move private enrollment centers to Government premises to stop this corruption. But our question is that are Government premises corruption free?

Just Aadhaar Enrollment center would earn around 24K Per month. But there are other source of income such as aadhaar printing and PAN card, lamination, photocopy, typing work which we get because of Aadhaar. So as to make a decent earning. But if we move to Government premises, we would only be able to run Enrollment Centers and all the other services will be shut down, because we are not allowed to do any other task at government premises.

Is there anything you would like to add?

The biggest problem is grievance redressal system of UIDAI, if you file complaint, UIDAI never helps as they consider it a privacy issue. If you have problem you must visit regional office for resolution, helplines are there but their only reply is “Go visit enrollment center”. If you ask information even about yourself they say they cannot provide information as it is confidential.

In rural areas people are unaware of aadhaar card, they enroll many times as it is free of cost. If they loose aadhaar card or enrollment slip they enroll again, every operator writes different spelling in english and there are different pincodes. And if your aadhaar is deactivated, you will probably never get aadhaar again as helplines never provide any information, queries on email goes un-heard, complaints on PG Portal takes 30 – 45 days for resolution and now a days even they have stopped giving any information.

He thinks that problems with Aadhaar are because of lack of trust in Enrolment Operators.

Aadhaar is good thing but mistrust in Enrollment operators have caused many troubles, Earlier some government departments had advance search of Aadhaar card, but that right too has been revoked so no point in going there too.

The UIDAI appears to be thoughtlessly implementing the Aadhaar scheme, with a Ponzi like rapid addition of operators, who are expected to invest in order to be able to conduct enrolments, but can get dismissed abruptly without notice, leaving their investments, income and staff in dire striats.

The new policy of moving enrolments to government premises miss the basic crux of the criticism. The issue was not the location of the private operators conducting enrolment, but the fact that private operators were conducting enrolment at all. Private operators operating from government premises does not make them government servants acting on the government payroll and accountable to government organization procedures.

What the UIDAI is doing is compounding thoughtless design and implementation with equally thoughtless and abrupt non-solutions to what is basically a rogue project.

The letter they received: DO-letter-aadhaar-operators

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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