Railway officials said if a passenger does not have a mobile phone, a decision will be taken on a 'case-to-case basis'.

Aperson walks past the departures board at Bengaluru airportPTI
Money Coronavirus Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 10:18

The Centre is likely to make it mandatory for people to have Aarogya Setu mobile application installed on their phones while taking a flight or a train post-lockdown, officials said on Monday.

"Preliminary discussions regarding making this app mandatory for air passengers have been done with the airlines," the government officials noted, adding that the Civil Aviation Ministry is yet to take a decision in this regard.

However, officials told PTI that any "exception" will be decided on a "case-to-case basis” but did not rule out disallowing passengers who do not have the app installed on their mobile phones.

While the guidelines issued by the railways for the 15 pairs of special trains running between Delhi and major cities of the country did not say installing the mobile app was mandatory, a late night (12:24 am) tweet by the railway ministry made it compulsory.

Railways Spokesperson R D Bajpai confirmed that the app is now mandatory for travel and said since a mobile phone number is also compulsory to book tickets online, all passengers will have to carry mobile phones with them.

"Passengers should come to the station after installing the Aarogya Setu app and it is mandatory for travel. The railways has made it compulsory and the passengers should install it for their own safety. Since all passengers carry mobile phones, this should not be an issue. Also, we will provide the passengers with all the help needed to use the app," he said.

Officials, however, said if a passenger does not have a mobile phone, a decision will be taken on a "case-to-case basis", adding that it is unlikely that someone travelling on a Rajdhani train will not have a phone.

"We did not make this app compulsory on the special trains for migrants," Bajpai said.

Sources said installing the app was made mandatory after a Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) missive, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with chief ministers on Monday.

The mobile application helps users identify whether they are at risk of COVID-19. It also provides people with information, including ways to avoid coronavirus and its symptoms.

The app gives colour coded designation to users as per their health status and travel history. It helps the user know if he or she is near anyone who has tested positive for the virus.

"If the proposal is approved in the Aviation ministry, passengers who do not have the app on their phone would not be allowed to board their flight," the officials noted.

According to a draft note circulated by the ministry, those who’s app is not ‘green’ will not be allowed inside the terminal building, Business Standard reported. It draft note also reportedly said that persons above 80 years will be restricted from traveling in the first phase of resumption.

The third phase of coronavirus-triggered lockdown will end on May 17. The government is yet to take a decision regarding resumption of commercial passenger flight services.

All commercial passenger flight operations have been suspended for the lockdown period. However, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights and special flights approved by the aviation regulator DGCA have been allowed to operate.

As per the Business Standard report, multiple airline executives too, have raised concerns over the implementation of this process and the efficiency of the same.

This move comes after the government made the app mandatory for all public and private sector employees.

However, the app has come under criticism for privacy concerns. With no personal data protection law in the country yet, privacy activists have raised concerns over the ambiguity of language in the privacy policy of the app.

The Internet Freedom Foundation has said that there is no means of transparently auditing, cautioning against the app becoming a permanent surveillance architecture.

Last week, French hacker and cybersecurity expert who goes by the moniker Elliot Alderson took to Twitter to point out a security issue being found in the app that put at risk the privacy of the app’s 90 million users.

However, post this, the government issued a statement that there has been no data or security breach and that ‘no personal information of any user has been proven to be at risk by this ethical hacker’.

With PTI inputs

Also read: Hacker points out flaw in Aarogya Setu: No data breach, says govt

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