The increasing encroachment and bulldozing on Aadhaar continues, with complete disregard to the minimal protection that is belatedly being promised by ensuring that Aadhaar numbers are not published in the public domain. However, I found a lost RuPay debit card with Aadhaar printed on it without the cardholder’s name.
This is extremely worrisome and exposes the unknown card-holder, whose card I found on my way to work, to extraordinary risk. There are two reasons: first, linking Aadhaar with bank accounts is very risky and second, displaying or printing the full Aadhaar number is a punishable offence under the Aadhaar Act. Yet, some banks are bold enough to print the Aadhaar number of the RuPay debit cardholder.
(Image for representation)
Responding to our email, Dilip Asbe, managing director and chief executive of National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which has launched the RuPay card payment scheme, categorically denied Aadhaar requirement for RuPay card.
When we showed him some RuPay cards that have Aadhaar numbers printed on them, Mr Asbe says, "Aadhaar is not mandatory for RuPay card issuance. These must be some old variants."
Several banks, including Bank of Baroda, Karnataka Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Saraswat Bank, among others, are issuing RuPay debit cards that carry the Aadhaar number along with the cardholder’s name. However, other banks are issuing Rupay debit card with just the cardholder’s name and without the Aadhaar number.
In one case, I found, only Aadhaar was printed on the international RuPay debit card. Name of the cardholder was missing from this card as well. After asking, I was told by the bank that this was the insta-debit card, which is issued to the account holder immediately after opening an account. Hence there is no name of the cardholder or account holder. However, Aadhaar is printed on the RuPay debit card as per the specification issued by NPCI, the bank official said.
So how come the Aadhaar number started being displayed on RuPay debit cards? This started with the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), where account holders were issued RuPay debit cards that carried a personal accident and permanent total disability insurance cover of Rs1 lakh. PMJDY accounts opened after 28 August 2018 have an accidental insurance cover of Rs2 lakh.
The NPCI portal says, "PMJDY is a national mission for financial inclusion to ensure access to financial services, namely, banking and savings and deposit accounts, remittance, credit, insurance, pension in an affordable manner. RuPay PMJDY debit card is issued with accounts opened under PM Jan Dhan Yojana."
From this we can assume that the Aadhaar number is mentioned on RuPay debit cards issued for PMJDY account holders. However, all these bank accounts are basic savings bank deposit accounts (BSBDAs).
So the question is how an account holder was issued an international debit card that has only Aadhaar displayed on it? The below images show that the use of Aadhaar number on a RuPay debit card is not limited to BSDBA accounts only and is more widespread.
Last month, while responding to a question in the Lok Sabha on linking the RuPay card and accounts with Aadhaar,
Anurag Thakur, minister of state for finance and corporate affairs, said that the linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts is on a 'voluntary basis', unless the account holder is receiving any benefit or subsidy under any scheme under Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act.
Interestingly, the Aadhaar Act under Chapter IV- 29 prohibits publishing, displaying or posting publicly any Aadhaar number. This is a punishable offence under Chapter VII 38 (g), which says…
(g) reveals any information in contravention of sub-section (5) of section 28, or shares, uses or displays information in contravention of section 29 or assists any person in any of the aforementioned acts;
In addition, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar numbers had asked all user agencies and departments in its advisory never to reveal the full Aadhaar number. “Full Aadhaar number display must be controlled only by the Aadhaar holder or various special roles or users having the need within the agency or department. Otherwise, by default, all displays should be masked,” UIDAI says.
This applies to the debit cards issued by RuPay as well, which display Aadhaar numbers of the cardholder in contravention of Chapter IV 29. So will there be any action against NPCI and the banks for violating various sections of the Aadhaar Act? Well, there is not much hope, unless UIDAI thinks otherwise and decides to act tough, at least for once.