The Indian government has instructed operators to accept forms of identification other than an Aadhaar card for SIM registration, the Times of India cites telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan as saying. Aadhaar is the government’s universal identification system and links the user’s demographic and biometric information to a single twelve-digit number. The system is intended to simplify the process of confirming a person’s identity for signing up for various services and welfare schemes. The official stance on mandatory linking to Aadhaar for services has fluctuated, however: the Supreme Court has recently clarified that Aadhaar verification is not required for purchasing a SIM card, having previously instructed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to ensure that all mobile numbers are verified via Aadhaar by February 2018 (the deadline has been postponed indefinitely).
Under the new order, cellcos are required to accept alternative documents, such as driving licences, passports and voter ID cards. ‘The ministry has issued instructions to all telecom companies, asking them not to deny a SIM card to any individual who does not have an Aadhaar number. We have asked them to accept other forms of KYC (Know Your Customer) documents, and continue to issue SIM cards,’ the telecom secretary explained.
Telcos have also reportedly been told to cut back on their efforts to push customers to re-verify via Aadhaar, amidst complaints that providers are ‘bombarding’ customers with calls and messages to link their hone number with Aadhaar. Director general of industry group the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Rajan Matthews, stated that operators were complying with the ministry’s guidelines, saying: ‘The communication is still being sent to cellphone users to encourage them to re-verify their mobile connections. However, no last date for completion of this exercise is to be mentioned in such communication.’