The tag line “Mera aadhar, Meri Pehchaan” literally translates to “My right, My identity”.
Well I do have an identity. An official identity. I am a tax paying citizen. I have my records with the income tax department. I still do not have an identity. An identity that the government has suddenly mandated. There have been debates, even court cases in supreme court, as to whether mandating UIAID is correct, or if it violates right to privacy. All said and done, the rule stays and I must get my identity.
I have been wanting to enroll for almost a year now. I procrastinated. Guilty. I Googled enrollment centers nearby. And visited one on a fine Saturday afternoon, 8 July 2017. There was crowd. I felt anxious, thinking about having to wait for long hours in queue. The in-charge of the center said enrollment is done only in the morning, so come before 11 a.m. I chose not to waste a weekday and visit next Saturday.
Saturday, 15 July 2017:
Next Saturday, the center was deserted. “The person who takes biometrics is on vacation for a week, come next Saturday”, I was told.
Saturday, 22 July 2017:
Next Saturday, the center is still deserted. Government has asked to stop enrollment process due to some data hack news. The owner of that center gave me his business card, so I could call before I visit there again. Wow.
I made sure i read all news items on this. I was pretty sure the mandate would go away. In meantime, the center is still not operating.
I kept visiting alternative Saturdays for almost 3 months. Still not operating. I searched for other agencies. They all had stopped operating too. Catch 22 situation. I was getting reminder from all banks and telecommunication companies to mandatorily update aadhar on or before 31 December 2017, and there were no agencies open for enrollment.
It was tiring. And frustrating. How could government do this? Sure, there would be some centers open and operating. But why shut-down others? I was helpless, cuz by now I knew my accounts would not be accessible if I don’t have aadhar by year-end. In desperation, I asked my colleagues if they know of any enrollment center, which is still taking enrollment requests. As usual, people started discussing on the topic in their regional language. I got the message. Nobody will tell me, nobody will help me. What goes out of their pocket if they help someone; what harm is it if I also get my aadhar, is beyond me; will always be.
Enough! I will just visit my native place I decided. There are a few enrollment centers. I would take my documents, stand in queue for whole day if I have to, and get enrolled. Before I booked tickets, my mum says most of the centers are shut in my native town, as well. Great!
After this, I was sort of lunatic. I would search the aadhar site for enrollment centers, contact them and would either hear that they’re shut or nobody would respond. In a frenzy, I withdrawn a good amount of cash, for the very like event that I won’ be getting my identity any time soon, my accounts will freeze.
Saturday, 11 November 2017:
Last Saturday, I got two addresses of enrollment centers that gave new hope. One was a small bank branch, on my way to work. The other was collector’s office, it was rather far off from my place. I almost got ready to go, but hey. It’s second Saturday and banks have off on second Saturday. I’ll just visit the collector’s office next week, I promised myself.
Monday, 13 November 2017:
Luckily, my brother had to visit the Vodafone’s branch, located right next to the bank’s branch which held aadhar camp. I asked him to enquire if it’s true or just one more camp that is no more functional. It was operational. He told me the in charge there asked to come by 10 a.m.
Tuesday, 14 November 2017:
Happy Children’s day!
I took the day off. Got ready with all the docs, and reached by 10:05am. It is pretty early, and nobody would be there, I assumed. I was so wrong.
- There were 10+ people already waiting and 10+ joined in next 15 minutes. Nobody knew what order they came in. I just tried to remember who all reached there after me.
- There was an instruction board, which said all sort of stuff that made me anxious.
- Camp works on weekdays, between 11 am to 3 pm only.
- Only 15 enrolments per day.
- Updates takes precedence over new enrollment.
- Around 10:45 a.m. the camp in charge came. And thus began a chaos.
All the candidates were asked to sit in the waiting room, which was tiny given the crowd size was 30+. The officer came, and started a speech – of how he has struggled to keep this aadhar camp operational, and that he works two shifts, and that he pays the assistant from his own pocket. He asked for our co-operation. The group was divided into two – existing aadhar holders needing update, and new enrolment. He announced that today he’ll do only updates. And tomorrow he will do only new enrolments. People for update was asked to stay in the waiting area, others had to wait outside. Now, I lost track of who came after me, I just remembered who was before me. There was only one lady. I was second in order. People randomly sat to wherever they could get a chair. Others stood, impatiently waiting for their turn.
After 10-15 minutes, the new enrolment crowd was asked in, to be assigned tokens. These tokens would be issued for next day. People started shouting their names to take the earliest tokens, everybody wanted to be in the first 15. I tried to do the same. The officer was not listening, or he was just listening to those who spoke the loudest. ALL the people who came after me, got token before me. Finally, he wrote down my name. I was second in order, I got second last token, an my appointment was scheduled at 3:30pm. I was fuming at this injustice. I kept telling myself that I would have stood in the queue for whole day. This is nothing. But I am obsessive about these things and I was not able to get this out of my head, still can’t.
I had emailed my team about taking the day off. As I finished early, and I knew the next day I would need to spend couple of hours in aadhar camp, I decided to go to office. I wished if all this was done a little earlier, I would’ve reached office before in-time (must swipe before 11:00 am to get full attendance). So this counts as half day.
After reaching home, all I could think was how people overtook my turn. I felt agitated thinking about how inconsiderate people have become. I felt anxious of whether the center would still be operational until tomorrow. Anything can happen here. I was being a little too pessimistic. I checked and rechecked all necessary documents a million times before I could sleep. Plan for next day was to reach office early, by 9:30 am; eat lunch; and start for aadhar camp around 2:45 pm. The aadhar camp is on a 20 minutes ride from my workplace. I just wanted to reach in time (before time).
Wednesday, 15 November 2017:
Next day, in office, I was restless. I tried hard to focus on work. Ate lunch, checked the documents 2-3 times, left a note to team for being away for a couple of hours. I stepped outside at 2:45 pm sharp. To add to my anxiety, there were no cabs or auto rickshaw. I consoled myself, something will show up. 10 minutes and still nothing. I decided to walk a little further, hoping to get a ride. It was already 3:00 pm. One auto rickshaw driver agreed, with double charge. Did I have a choice to bargain? It is not a good day, I started to feel depressed. The roads were not very crowded, so it took me less than 15 minutes to reach to the center.
There was one enrolment in progress. I remembered everybody who got the token before me, That person was not there. Maybe other people are also getting squeezed in between scheduled appointments. One more unscheduled guy after him. The camp in-charge came to me and requested that there is one kid who needs to be enrolled, else he will sleep. Did I have a choice to say no?
Finally my turn came around 3:45 pm. Good thing is by this time, the in-charge had taken over the control from assistant (the assistant was slow, and not good at typing). First the information from my handwritten form was fed in the computer. Then the fingerprints of left hand, right hand, then thumb impressions. I was so freakin’ nervous. My fingers were shaking on the scanning machine. I repeated the scan 4-5 times. I assumed the quality was not good due to all the nervous tremors. That followed by aeries, then a photo. By this time, the light lamp was out of battery so my photo was clicked in dark, 7-8 photos, just to get a good shot.
- The photos on aadhar are all bad, no matter how good-looking you are.
- I was looking my worse, with oily uncombed hair, tired face, dried lips.
- There was poor lighting.
- I don’t photograph well, anyway.
He asked me to check the details. Everything looked ok, the photograph looked horrible.. After this, my original documents were scanned. Then he printed the enrolment acknowledgment. Oh wait, the address had two mistakes. I casually asked if the update process would be the same, as there are two mistakes in the address. his assistant gave me a dirty look, and rudely said, “Didn’t you check this before?” I replied “No, I have weak eyesight, and these tiny mistakes are now seen when I am seeing it from 5 inches away”. The in-charge was a little considerate and took the form to re-feed the information. Then he asked me to do fingerprints. Wait, what? Again? This time i was even more nervous. The whole process took 15 more minutes. Others waiting asked again and again, if I had appointment or just came by, like other unscheduled folks. I told them I had an appointment, and they can check the token register. Finally, at 4:10 pm, I was handed over the new acknowledgement form. The in-charge was a little miffed. I asked him about fee “This is FREE” he plainly said. I thanked him anyway and left.
It doesn’t stop here. I had read that if the biometrics are found duplicate, then the aadhar card is not issues. Since mine was done twice, I wasn’t sure if I would get one. My brother called, to ask if I was able to get th enrolment done. I told him the story. He assured me that some of his friends had also messed up during the enrolment process, and they got aadhar nonetheless, so I need not worry. Sure let’s hope.
This is phase 1. I still haven’t got the card issued to me. Thus begins the wait.