Big tech and government bureaucrats are exactly who we want to be in large of life and death, right?
The death by starvation of Etwariya Devi, a 67-year-old widow from the rural Indian state of Jharkhand, might have passed without notice had it not been part of a more widespread trend.
Like 1.3 billion of her fellow Indians, Devi had been pushed to enroll in a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar in order to access public services, including her monthly allotment of 25kg of rice. When her fingerprint failed to register with the shoddy system, Devi was denied her food ration.
Throughout the course of the following three months in 2017, she was repeatedly refused food until she succumbed to hunger, alone in her home.
Premani Kumar, a 64-year-old woman also from Jharkhand, met the same demise as Devi, dying of hunger and exhaustion the same year after the Aadhaar system transferred her pension payments to another person without her permission, while cutting off her monthly food rations.
A similarly cruel fate was reserved for Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year-old girl, also from Jharkhand, who reportedly died begging for rice after her family’s ration card was canceled because it had not been linked to their Aadhaar digital ID.
These three heart-rending casualties were among a spate of deaths in rural India in 2017 which came as a direct result of the Aadhaar digital ID system.
With over one billion Indians in its database, Aadhaar is the largest biometric digital ID program ever constructed. Besides serving as a portal to government services, it tracks users’ movements between cities, their employment status and purchasing records. It is a de facto social credit system that serves as the key entry point for accessing services in India.
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