Ram Sewak Sharma, the TRAI chief recently shared his Aadhaar number on twitter. Little did he expect such an act would snowball into a major controversy. Privacy activists deplored the move. Aadhaar critics claimed all his details have become public. Some hackers with mischief on their mind sent one rupee to his account through the pay to Aadhaar feature using UPI (Unified Payment Interface) apps. A beggar here in Bengaluru who was a mute spectator, to all this bickering, was inspired.
With 99% adults in India having the Aadhaar, It was no surprise Mr. Siraj Khan a beggar by profession had it too. With the government emphasizing on opening Jan Dhan Accounts for the poor, Siraj too opened an account in a bank near his slum dwelling. When he heard about the controversy about the sharing of Aadhaar number, he did not bother too much. After a few days, when the controversy seemed to subside, he heard something which was startling.
A life of Penury
Like all beggars Siraj lives by the road side, begging for food and alms. On days when people are benevolent he earns as much as 150 rupees. “It is not all rosy begging” He says. There are lean days too when he finds it difficult to make ends meet. It was always his dream to lead a comfortable life. Stricken with polio since his childhood, his right leg had been affected. He uses a wooden pole as support to stand. Unlettered and leading a life in the periphery, all he wanted to do was live a life with dignity.
Siraj knew the importance of identity proof and always carried a duplicate copy of his aadhaar with him. It is helpful when he has to deal with the police he says. A beggar like him who does not live within the confines of four walls cannot be expected to comprehend what privacy meant. When he heard that some people deposited one rupee in the account of Shri. Sharma ji, he knew he had discovered something worthy. He dreamt of not having to beg yet earning from people.
Modern Begging through Aadhaar
It wasn’t time yet for him to be able to share his Aadhaar, though. He says no one told him we can beg this way. He had to come up with a novel way of sharing his Aadhaar in such a way, people would instantly get to know he was a beggar and in need. After mulling all options he decided to get a placard made with his Aadhaar complete with a logo displayed prominently. He is a happy man now. Any Aadhaar critic or hacker who sees his placard does not leave him empty handed.