Karnataka is not only collecting Aadhaar of students, but sharing it among departments

TNM has learnt that the Education Department is planning to share the Aadhaar data with other government departments, like Health and Transport, to track all aspects of a student’s academic life.
Student with bag
Student with bag
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The Karnataka Education Department has intensified its efforts to link the Aadhaar number of every student in the state to the Student Achievement Tracking System (SATS), a statewide database created to keep track of the progress of students. According to figures provided by the state School Education Department, the Aadhaar numbers of more than 84% of the students studying in private, aided and government schools in the state have been linked ahead of the 2023-24 academic year.

While the Education Department says that it is insisting on Aadhaar numbers to ensure there is no duplication of entries, TNM has learnt that it is planning to share the data with other government departments, like the Health and Transport Departments, to track all aspects of a student’s academic life. In particular, the Education Department wants to check students who are using bus passes and availing government benefits like scholarships and mid-day meals.

After completing the exercise for students in government and aided schools, the Education Department has been insisting on the collection of Aadhaar details of students in private schools in the past year. A circular issued by the Department in February 2023 stated that the Aadhaar number of all students in private schools must be collected. “To distribute scholarships to deserving students, for appearing in various entrance tests and availing other government services, the Aadhaar number and the name as mentioned in the Aadhaar card must be collected,” the circular stated.

Though parents of students in private schools were given a consent form before the collection of their Aadhaar numbers, school principals TNM spoke to said that the collection of the Aadhaar details was not an option but a decree that had to be compulsorily followed. “We are bound to collect it. For all entries related to the student, the (School Education) Department has insisted we collect Aadhaar numbers,” said the principal of a private school in Bengaluru.

Parents who spoke to TNM raised apprehensions that linking the Aadhaar number of students with a public database puts their privacy at risk. “I don’t want my child’s academic data on a publicly available portal. It has the name, age, name of school my child attends, and other academic information,” said one parent.

The Education Department is aiming to link the Aadhaar number of every student by the start of the academic year in June. “We are aiming for 100% seeding of the Aadhar number in SATS,” Shaila RN, an official said. A key reason for this, officials told TNM, was to avoid duplication of entries and smoothen the state government’s schemes to help students.

“The Department has come across more than 22,000 cases of duplication. This is when students are found to be enrolled in more than one school in the state. Sometimes, this was in different districts of the state. There are parents who have availed free food, uniforms, and textbooks even when their wards are not studying in government schools,” Prasanna Kumar, Director of Public Instruction, Primary Education, told TNM.

The Department further plans to share the data collected with other relevant departments to help identify beneficiaries of government schemes. “There is no scope for data leak in this, but it will help us ensure that scholarships are disbursed through the State Scholarship Portal (SSP) and help the Transport Department keep a track of the students availing bus passes. It will be crucial for us to identify students who drop out of school,” Shaila RN said.

However, parents TNM spoke to are uneasy about the idea of a database with the Aadhaar numbers of every student, and ask why Aadhaar validation is necessary for private school students who do not receive government benefits. “Why are the Aadhaar numbers of students in private schools being collected where there are no government benefits being distributed? Schools have admission records that they share with their respective boards,” said a parent. “Though a consent form is given before Aadhaar numbers are collected, the language used by school teachers and principals make it seem like a mandatory requirement rather than an option. Other government IDs are actively discouraged,” the parent added.

SATS was introduced in Karnataka in 2017. Under this system, each student is given a 9-digit number that enables the state government to keep track of the student’s academic achievements, attendance record, and helps execute online transfer of certificates. Aadhaar, the biometrics-based database, assigns a unique 12-digit number to every resident of India under the statutory authority of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The SATS portal also helps parents track their child’s academic performance.

Is Aadhaar mandatory for students to be enrolled in SATS?

As per the rules, the government can ask for Aadhaar details when a student is receiving benefits from the state, like free education, textbooks, bus passes, and so on. This is specified in Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act and in ‘The Karnataka Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill 2018’. The act, however, goes on to say, “Provided that if an Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual, the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service.” In repeated orders, the Supreme Court has stressed that an Aadhaar card link cannot be made compulsory to avail government welfare benefits.

Karnataka is not the only state insisting on Aadhaar numbers for students. In January, Maharashtra made the submission of Aadhaar numbers of both parents and students mandatory during admissions. Aadhaar-enabled biometric attendance has been mandated in Telangana while Aadhaar is a must for admissions to Delhi’s private schools under the economically weaker, disadvantaged, and children with special needs categories from the 2023-24 academic session.

This reporting is possible with support from Report for the World, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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