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The BJP's card game

The real problem lies with the BJP’s unabated enthusiasm for politicizing identity in the name of a problematic oneness

By The Editorial Board

  • Published 26.09.19, 1:59 AM
  • Updated 26.09.19, 1:59 AM
Union home minister Amit Shah has come up with the idea of yet another card — a ‘multipurpose’, smart version — that could, he said, subsume the functions of several other documents that provide proof of citizenship or identity and serve as utilities
Union home minister Amit Shah has come up with the idea of yet another card — a ‘multipurpose’, smart version — that could, he said, subsume the functions of several other documents that provide proof of citizenship or identity and serve as utilities Telegraph file picture

The Bharatiya Janata Party does not believe in holding its cards too close to its chest when it comes to the matter of cards. The Union home minister has now come up with the idea of yet another card — a ‘multipurpose’, smart version — that could, Amit Shah said, subsume the functions of several other documents that provide proof of citizenship or identity and serve as utilities. It is not as if India has been found wanting when it comes to issuing such important certificates. The nation, it is estimated, has 12 million passport holders, and is behind only China and the United States of America in this respect. The Aadhaar card, one of the least expensive methods of enrolment, is said to cover over 90 per cent of the Indian population. The Election Commission issues voter identity cards to citizens eligible to cast their votes while the permanent account number, a unique, 10-digit combination, identifies tax-paying Indians. But these, and other such measures, are evidently not enough for Mr Shah and his party. Sifting bona fide citizens from ‘infiltrators’ is, presumably, a rather challenging affair that demands further, rigorous — controversial — methods of identification. The home minister has thus resurrected the old idea of an all-encompassing marker of identity.

Of course, Mr Shah need not be bothered with the price that citizens could pay as a result of his zeal for identity. Synchronizing overlapping documents could pose a logistical challenge to India’s technology apparatus. All the more so because this technology, the Aadhaar enrolment process demonstrated, could be exclusive, failing to accommodate particular kinds of people. It cannot be said for certain that enrolment for Mr Shah’s smarter card would be free from such errors. The leakages could merit judicial scrutiny. India’s highest court has, after all, upheld the right to privacy. Legal petitions filed as a result of oversight could bog down induction. The real problem, however, lies with the BJP’s unabated enthusiasm for politicizing identity in the name of a problematic oneness. This politics, inimical to pluralism and disruptive to citizens’ lives, manifests itself periodically in peculiar forms.

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