History Seminar Series – Dr Pawan Singh, 26 July 2017

Dr Pawan Singh will present his paper, “India’s Unique Identification System: Biometrics, Privacy and Surveillance”, at this week’s History Seminar (Wednesday, 11am).


In 2009, India established the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which mandated the Aadhaar card for Indian citizens as an identification mechanism based on biometric information such as fingerprints and iris scan. Aadhaar, which means foundation in Hindi, began as a voluntary scheme linked to the disbursement of government benefits to the rightful recipients.However, over time, Aadhaar has become linked to various other services such as banking and taxation, which require the unique identification number mandatorily. This presentation looks at the origins of Aadhaar in national security and terrorism concerns and maps its evolution into a framework of e-governance that ostensibly brings transparency to state’s business with its citizens. The Aadhaar mandate which has been challenged by multiple court petitions entails issues of privacy and fundamental rights violation. The presentation examines the problem of visibility in the induction of postcolonial digital modernity in India that reconfigures the public and private aspects of social and economic life.


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