Mumbai: Consumers have been repeatedly receiving calls reminding cellphone users of doing biometrics and connecting their cell number to Aadhaar. This is followed by repeated text messages. They are not stalkers but your telecom operator, calling you to link your mobile numbers to Aadhaar for e-KYC for subscriber verification before February 2018.
On the one hand, the Supreme Court’s order upholds the Right to Privacy for all Indians. But on the another hand, telecom operators have to stick to specific instructions from Department of Telecommunications (DoT) (which is contrary to the judgment) asking them to link all mobile numbers to Aadhaar as e-KYC for subscriber verification is mandatory. In all this confusion, the customers continue to suffer. One of those harassed customers, Ragvendra said, “I keep getting calls to link my Aadhaar and mobile number, even though the deadline is February 2018. They keep harassing me now and then.” Another Mumbaikar, Robin, echoed the thought, saying, “They call me and soon after they text me. They are harassing their customers.”
There are some telecom operators who claim that they have a system in place to differentiate customers who have linked Aadhaar and who haven’t. “This is so untrue. Few months back, I linked my Aadhaar with mobile number. But my operator keeps calling me,” alleged a Vodafone customer. When Vodafone was asked for a comment, they replied via e-mail saying that while the last date for mandatory Aadhaar re-verification is February 2018, Vodafone has been proactively urging customers to get it done at the earliest to avoid the last minute rush.
Meanwhile, an 84-year old citizen was asked by his operator to come to their store for biometrics, even though his family members submitted his Aadhaar to them. A person who is familiar with working of Airtel said, “We have to call them even though the deadline is next year. The reason for this is to avoid the last minute rush.” Public telecom operator, MTNL, is still working on the technology. An MTNL official said, “As far as I know, BSNL and MTNL are working on technologies separately. We have not started calling or texting our customers as we think it is still early.”
There are some telecom players using this opportunity of Aadhaar confusion to shift 3G customers to 4G or push them from pre-paid to post-paid. “I was scared that my connection will be cancelled. So I rushed to the Vodafone centre and they gave me a 4G SIM. But they did not collect my Aadhaar details,” alleged an Andheri resident. Yet another customer also faced the same issue.
In August, industry association of telecos— COAI in its statement said, “The ongoing exercise presently carried out by telcos for subscriber verification, are as per strict guidelines issued, monitored and enforced by DoT. We await any further instruction or reference from the licensor (DOT) in this regard.” This means the operators will continue calling their customers until DOT tells them otherwise.