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A Letter to PM Modi From an Elderly Man Whose Fading Fingerprints Can’t Be Verified for Aadhaar

Many services are now intrinsically linked to Aadhaar in India. Yet the system’s implementation remains patchy, particularly for biometric verification. In a letter to the Prime Minister, a senior Indian citizen points out some of the existing problems and suggests solutions.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate you on your decision to accelerate the universal adoption of Aadhaar by the Indian population, and its effective implementation in a host of diverse applications aimed at making India a truly digital nation, and a model for the world to follow.

However, I do have one complaint in this matter—the inability of the Aadhaar system to verify elderly individuals with fading fingerprints. I am one such person whose fingerprints have faded with age, and hence am no longer verifiable by the Aadhaar system, thereby rendering me, in effect, a non-entity in my own homeland.

There are hundreds of thousands of elderly persons affected like me who too are facing the same problem, and are thereby being denied services that are being increasingly linked to Aadhaar. These numbers are increasing every year as the elderly population keeps increasing.

I am aware that the Aadhaar system does have the facility of iris scan recognition too, but these scanners are presently not available with anybody other than the authorised Aadhaar enrolment centres. Even my bank did not have such scanners when I perforce had to visit it for submitting my life certificate for continuation of my pension.

I had even approached one of the Aadhaar enrollment centres to use my iris scan verification to open and update my fingerprints record in the Aadhaar database, but they declined, saying that this was not permissible.

Representational Image (Source: By Kannanshanmugam,shanmugamstudio,Kollam (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
In view of the above, I would like to suggest the following measures for your perusal and early implementation so as to provide much-needed relief to the elderly population with fading fingerprints, and to ensure that each of our countrymen can truly enjoy the benefits of Aadhaar:

a) The Aadhaar system should display the individual’s photograph too on entering the Aadhaar number. We can then use this photograph for identity verification, at least till the Aadhaar system has facial recognition software.

b) The government should allow identification from documents if fingerprints have faded with age/disease and iris scan too is unfeasible.

c) Partial degradation of fingerprints, damage to eyes due to disease/injury, and changes in facial features will inevitably occur with age. It is therefore necessary that you allow people to update their fingerprints/iris scans and photographs periodically. Thus, the updated Aadhaar database can match the individual’s current features in a much better way.

d) There is plenty of documentation about the possibilities of hacking and duplicating fingerprints. There is a need therefore to shift from fingerprint scans to much more secure palm vein scans. We can do this progressively by incorporating this system in newer versions of Aadhaar scanners. At the same time, we can gradually phase out older versions of the Aadhaar machines.

It is my humble request that you examine the above suggestions and implement them at the earliest. Thus, elderly people like me will be able to access the services for which Aadhaar is increasingly becoming mandatory.

About the author: KL Arora is a pensioner based in Pune, where he lives in a senior citizens’ home. He is reachable via email.

To know more about Aadhaar, and update your information, visit the official website of the Unique Identification Authority of India.

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