One card for all utilities: Propounding the multi-purpose theory.

Reading time: 5-6 minutes.

On 23 September 2019, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah put forward the idea of one card for all utilities. He mooted the plan of a multi-purpose card for citizens with all utilities like Aadhar, Passport and Bank Accounts.

While speaking at the ceremony for construction of new building of Registrar General of India that conducts the 10-year censuses, Mr. Shah spoke about the capabilities of bringing all kinds of cards into one multipurpose card.

What are the Salient Features of the announcement?

  1. The proposed idea is about creating a system of a single card which would include all details of a citizen such as Aadhar, Driving License, etc. 
  2. The aim of the process would be to lay a foundation for a digital census process, rather than the usual pen and paper process.
  3. Home Minister Shah also said that a digital application will be used for population census in the year 2021.
  4. While speaking about the digital census process, he also added that an app is being developed for data collection in phones.
  5. The idea of a single card would be a step towards achieving ‘one poll’ and ‘one unifying language’.
  6. However, the Ministry sources could not explain how the multi-purpose card would work and how it would differ from Aadhar, Passport, etc.

What was the general reaction?

The idea of a common utility card was greeted with varied reactions. Some experts believe that the very idea of a one-card is absurd. Some major issues that the experts believe would be are in relation to the security and privacy of the citizens. However, few experts have also backed the idea, claiming it to be a rather convenient one.

What are the Legal Issues Involved?

  1. One of the major issues includes the security risks. If there is a single card that holds all the vital details of a citizen, a huge problem would entail if the system is compromised.
  2. Further, the power of the central agencies to breach privacy of a citizen would increase.
  3. Cybercrimes, threats as well as digital frauds may witness a rise since the intruders would have to breach only one layer of security to gain all the data.
  4. Apart from the legal ramifications, the implementation of the idea is bound to include huge expenditure.
  5. A single card for all utilities would cause a lot of hardships if the card gets lost, damaged or stolen. Also, hacking of server and network issues are other obstacles.

What Lies Ahead?

The idea of one card for all utilities is a well-thought plan but limited to an extent. Keeping in mind the issues with the Aadhar process, the implementation of this idea is a complicated task. The one card idea being mooted by the Home Minister could open a can of worms.

One cannot ignore the fact that a single card would make people more vulnerable to security and privacy threats, both online and offline. Even if the idea is a smart one, it comes at a wrong time. People have already spent a lot of time standing in queues for Aadhar, ration cards as well as in banks demonetization came into action.

Such a process would again mean big queues and bigger displeasures. It is not to be forgotten that the Aadhar card has still not been able to become fully secured after all these years.

There is no doubt that a single card would be a convenient option for the citizens, however, the Government should first focus on strengthening the privacy and security segments. Due attention and time should be devoted to these issues and the implementation should not be hasty.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration Saksham Grover from Delhi Metropolitan Education, Guru Gobind Singh Indrapastha, New Delhi.

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