Hyderabad: Slamming the chief electoral officer for sharing its data with the state government in order to prepare electoral rolls through Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage in Telangana in 2015, which led to large-scale deletion of names from the rolls, activists asked the Election Commission of India (EC) to undertake an investigation into the matter and disclose details of all voters whose names were deleted.
“We demand that the complete details of all pilot programmes conducted in Telangana be disclosed with regard to the Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage. All the Aadhaar-related details must be destroyed or deleted, because the CEO then supplied voter data to the state’s Information Technology, Electronics and Communication department. This is a clear violation of electoral laws," said Kiran Chandra, general secretary of the Free Software Movement of India.
Addressing a press conference, Chandra stated that the Telangana government has collected citizens’ data, including personal details like caste and religion, under the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH), which is an Aadhaar-seeded repository of information consolidated from multiple government databases. The SRDH uses an individual’s Aadhaar number as a unique identifier to interlink these scattered databases and is also linked to the UIDAI servers to allow for Aadhaar-enabled biometric authentication.
The matter pertains to 2015, when the then chief electoral officer (of both AP and Telangana) had begun linking Aadhaar data with election photo identity card (EPIC) or voter ID under the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP), an exercise meant to weed out duplicate and bogus voters. The process, which began in March 2015, was stalled after a Supreme Court judgment in August, but by then, about 3 million names had already been deleted from the rolls.
However, activists and opposition parties had in 2015 alleged that many of the names were deleted without due verification. And that claim was proven when a Right To Information (RTI) response from the ECI showed the then CEO (of AP and Telangana) Bhanwar Lal admitting in a communication to the ECI (on 8 August 2015) that door-to-door verification had not been conducted properly in Greater Hyderabad specifically.
The CEO in that letter had admitted that that many people had complained that block level officers (BLOs) had not visited their homes for verification of voter names in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) area during the Aadhaar linking process under the election photo-identity card programme (EPIC).
During the 2018 Telangana elections, mass deletion of voter names was reported on voting day, which prompted the Telangana CEO to apologize to the public. Many who had voted in the 2014 elections found their names missing from the electoral rolls, especially in the GHMC area, which has 25 of the 119 state assembly constituencies.
Chandra and Srinivas Kodali, another independent researcher and data scientist, released documents to the media with regard to the details of the Aadhar-EPIC linking, and also of the CEO using the SRDH in 2015 for the NERPAP programme. “The large scale of voter deletion had led to political parties complaining to the ECI, but no action was taken by the body, which actually abdicated its responsibility as a constitutional authority on the matter of preparing electoral rolls," said Kodali.