India’s Supreme Court has delivered a landmark decision that could have severe repercussions for Modi’s ‘smart cities’ program which aims to transform many of India’s cities and bring them into the ‘digital age’.
However, India’s universal identification program ‘Aadhaar’ has attracted a positive response since its introduction has suffered a bug setback following the court’s decision to rule unanimously in favor of individual privacy, declaring that it is a ‘fundamental right’ for every citizen.
Analysts have suggested that given the prevalence of data in today’s technology driven world and the government’s initiatives and policies towards ‘smart living’ which is based centrally on collecting data has the potential to have a huge impact on India, in both the short-term and future development of the country.
The court decided that the right to privacy is guaranteed and protected with Article 21 of India’s constitution. It was disclosed that the case was years in the making and that legal action was initiated following a series of complaints in relation to violation and privacy from Aadhaar.
Aadhaar is the government led program that gives 12-digit ID number to all Indian citizens – and this has inevitably led to the system accumulating huge amounts of individual data, including personal and biometric details for more than a billion people. One of the problems highlighted is that Aadhaar is becoming increasingly more compulsory, and it even required within certain educational institutions.
It has even been required to carry out mundane tasks like buying a Jio smartphone, this has triggered concerns that it has the potential to turn India into a surveillance state, and there is also the threat of how easy it is for some databases to be hacked.
While the ruling isn’t a direct attack on Aadhaar, it certainly is a blow and gives ammunition to those opposed to the government-led program. It is unclear, what path the program will now take, but it has become evident that it needs to be revamped as opposed to its disbandment.