New Delhi: The Centre's move to include sensitive private data in the proposed national health identity card has come in for flak for several reasons. The digital ID is part of the National Digital Health Mission, formally announced by the prime minister on Independence Day but in the works for a while.
The Health Data Management Policy of the National Digital Health Mission was released on 26 August to the public for comments and feedback.
The draft mentions particulars asked for that include one's religion, caste, six life, physical and mental health and even political beliefs in addition to bank credit/debit card details. The major charge being raised from several quarters is that it amounts to intrude into the private details of the individual citizen. But the central government clarifies that providing such details are optional and one can choose not to disclose them.
Further, it is being circulated with a very short window of seven days for comments and feedback. News portal Scroll.in quotes T Sundaraman, former director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre, an advisory body to the Union health ministry as saying "One week is ridiculous". He said normallythe time allowed to seek responses is one to three months.
The 12-digit unique identification number, which is likely to be linked to Aadhaar, will contain a person's biometric details. It is planned that the ID will be key to accessing a digital database containing medical and personal information.
The haste in introducing sweeping changes such as this is seen as part of the Centre's propensity to push through crucial reforms and its own agenda during the time of lockdown, in an apparent bid to thwart public and organised opposition. The trend was visible in other moves like the draft Environment Assessment Notification (EIA), which was not published in all languages and with limited publicity and the National Education Policy (NEP), the latter being a document of its kind coming after 35 years and yet pushed through in incomprehensible hurry.
S Prasanna, a lawyer for petitioners in the Aadhaar case has also been quoted as saying that it was "manifestly undemocratic" to push through such a policy in the middle of a pandemic, when "organised opposition" was difficult. He also highlighted that normally legislation and policy that deepen citizenship rights – like the data protection law – take years to materials, but a policy proposal that can undermine those very rights are rushed through in days.