Aadhar And Its (Dis)Contents: The How, Why, When, Where, What & Who

Posted: July 28, 2017

Time was when getting your Aadhar card was a breeze. Not anymore. With the government rules tightening the screws on us, the rush to get the Aadhar number/card can be a taxing experience.

Here are some helpful hints on getting your Aadhar card for those who are yet to go through the rigmarole.

Where?

There is no straightforward answer to this. The Internet has some outdated and incorrect information, so proceed with caution. The UIDAI website has a list of Aadhar application centres, but it isn’t exhaustive. So, you may end up missing the one closest to you.

Some centres are managed by government agencies and others are contracted out to private parties, some as permanent centres and others as temporary centres. Many centres were shut down during the last year, and so now, when you need them the most, fewer centres are in operation. Rely on word-of-mouth to find a functioning centre close to you. Senior citizens in your area are a rich source of such information. Tap into their wisdom before deciding where to go. (However, you can apply for an Aadhar number at any centre, anywhere in the country.)

Not all centres are covered and you may end up standing on the roadside, so carry an umbrella to save yourself from the sun or rain. It would be best to canvas the location the day before you go to apply, to see what else you may need. We had carried dosas, fruits and water, which was a relief in the end.

When?

The existing centres are currently operating to full capacity. The queues are long in most places. At the government-managed centres and other large permanent centres, you may have to take a token and wait. Only an x-number of Aadhar applications are taken up by them on a day-to-day basis. It could range from 40–200 applications each day. But there are centres that don’t issue tokens and you just have to stand and take your chances for the day. The one in our neighbourhood didn’t have a cap on number of applications per day, and hence the lines there were longer. Most centres are supposed to open by 9am. Stand in the queue at least an hour before opening time, to get away faster and avoid losing an entire day in the queue.

What?

The application itself is simple. The form is a one-pager, which requires basic ID and address related details. The centres won’t even retain it, but instead will use it fill the data into the online database in front of you. Take any government issued ID card with you to establish the identity proof and address proof (rent agreement and permanent address if they aren’t the same) – Voter’s ID, Driver’s License, Passport, etc. Remember, your PAN card is only an ID proof and not an address proof. So be careful. The centre’s operators will photocopy these ID related documents and do the rest. You don’t need to carry photocopies. Take along drinking water and/or juice and snacks/fruits. You cannot know how long it will take.

Who?

All adults, citizens and those residing in India for longer than 182 days, are expected to get the Aadhar number. But they aren’t sparing the kids. Anyone above five years of age is expected to stand in the queue, get fingerprinted and retina-scanned to get the Aadhar number. The parents/guardians must ‘introduce’ them in the application. Children younger than five are also issued a card (not sure for what purpose), which is blue in colour.

Why?

The Aadhar number will become the ultimate Proof of Identity in future (not to be confused with proof of citizenship). You already need it to file your income tax returns. Linking your Aadhar number to the PAN must be done online, through the income tax website. An OTP will be sent to your phone, so make sure that you register your phone number in the Aadhar database correctly.
By the end of the year, you will need to link to your phone number to Aadhar if you want to retain a mobile phone connection. And once you link it to the number, you can retain that number for life, anywhere in India. To link your Aadhar to the phone number, you will need to physically go to the customer service centre of your service provider and match your biometrical data. Make sure to take your phone with you since you will receive an OTP that must be entered by the service provider.

By the first quarter of next year, you will need to link (‘seed’) your bank account to the Aadhar number or risk losing it. Banks are required to confirm each account via e-KYC, with Aadhar as the basis, for the stated purpose of reducing/eliminating fraud in the banking system.

Students will require Aadhar for all kinds of things – from hall tickets to degree certificates. Schools are already demanding Aadhar numbers for their little wards, to perhaps ‘link’ to the data of their parents (who knows the logic!).

There is no waiting and watching anymore. There is no avoiding getting the Aadhar number.

How?

The actual process of application takes hardly 10 minutes. Your details are entered into the database in English. It simultaneously gets transliterated into the official state language. If you know the language, keep an eye on whether the transliteration is accurate. In any case, make sure that the details entered are accurate. Much of it is predictive text and things could go wrong. The database operator may not be meticulous, or just human error may creep in. It isn’t machine-perfect.

The operator will then take photocopies of your ID and address proof(s) on the spot and return the original to you. You are asked to give your fingerprints on a very dirty machine that would not have been cleaned after every use. Please remember to wash your hands afterwards or carry a hand sanitiser if you prefer. A retinal scan is then done, which makes you look cock-eyed in the end result that is uploaded online. And finally, you are photographed through a web cam. After standing for four or five hours in a queue, not knowing when you will summit, don’t expect your Aadhar photo to look great. If your Aadhar look matters to you, then carry the necessary touch-up items.

Important: What should you pay?

You are NOT expected to pay anything more than Rs 25 while first applying for the Aadhar. But since the makers in India are good at one thing, viz., to scam our fellow human beings, you may get conned. At our centre, we were made to pay Rs 200. At that time many of us didn’t know that we didn’t need to, but the demand was presented to us without a choice. When I enquired, I was told that the Rs.200 was for the laminated cards (the long and short versions). In reality, you don’t need the card in printed form, and if and when you do need it, you can download it from the website, or print up a saved copy downloaded from the website, on any paper, and use it. I was told from friends living in different parts of the country that they paid anywhere between Rs 50 to Rs 1500! So, if your centre is charging you more than Rs 25, contest it. You can register a complaint against such a centre on the UIDAI website.

After the application

The Aadhar number does not take time to come. Mine was generated within four working days. I could check the status online, on the UIDAI website, by entering the enrollment number and date and time of application. I later downloaded a digitally signed soft copy of the Aadhar number for any offline use. I used the verify options to make sure that the Aadhar database recognized the phone number I had registered at the time of application, because, practically everything requiring the Aadhar verification in future will be an OTP-based transaction. The correct phone number needs to be in the database. One can always update/correct any details on the website, if there is a change in the information supplied at the time of application.

In the event that there is any discrepancy in your data, you can apply online to have it corrected. Those who cannot navigate the internet can do this at the Aadhar centres, where the operators are expected to guide them (be prepared for confusion because these chaps are not the best communicators in the business). A request for change in details will be charged a nominal fee, even if it isn’t your fault (so, make sure that you check what is entered in front of you at the time of application).

The standard applicable fees related to Aadhar are mentioned on the UIDAI website. Do not pay anything more than that if you can help it or fight it out. I overheard some people who were there because their biometrical data was not matching at the time of linking their phone numbers to the Aadhar number. This could be a software issue or something else that is out of your control. Be prepared for these hassles in the future.

Dime-a-dozen websites and blogs show up when you try to look up Aadhar-related information on the internet. Stick to the UIDAI website to avoid getting lost, confused or misled. Although some informative parts were not working when I browsed the website, it felt best to stick to this site for accuracy of information.

Also note, It is possible for us to lock our biometric data by selecting the option online. However, remember that when your do so, agencies that are required to verify your Aadhar details won’t have access to it. So, once you finish linking your Aadhar to whatever we now know needs linking, i.e. phone, PAN, bank, school, etc., opt to lock it online. You can later unlock it when you need to supply your Aadhar details for any other service that may require the data. Data security at the database end may not yet be a certainty, but we can do this one thing to secure our details to some extent.

Some years ago the Aadhar card would arrive by post. It does not appear to be an option anymore in many centres. So, don’t expect to receive it in the post. I am on my way to pick it up from the centre where I had enrolled, for the fault of having paid Rs.200 for these cards. The scene there is that all the Aadhar cards waiting to be picked up are kept in a plastic rectangular tub, from where you can find yours and collect it after showing the proof of enrollment. Basically, our Aadhar numbers are freely viewable at this centre, which does not bode well for our faith in this system protecting such vital data!

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About the Author:Vinutha Mallya is a book editor and journalist based in Bangalore.
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