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Vodafone Idea, Airtel and Reliance Jio submit Aadhaar delinking plans

Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm have followed the orders of Unique Identification Authority of India and submitted their exit plans on closing down Aadhaar-based authentication.

However, the three major telcos have
raised the issue that although they are working with the telecom department for alternative verification methods, the sudden change will need more investments which will further burden the financially stretched operators.

One of the operators has written to the regulator saying that although it will comply with the Supreme Court’s verdict last month, all investments made so far in e-KYC will now be wasted if Aadhaar-based authentication is completely scrapped.

“We have told the UIDAI that massive investments have been made in setting up infrastructure for digital ‘know your customer’ (KYC). Operators have invested in biometric devices and workforce training. It will be a colossal wastage specifically for companies in telecom sector, who are already reeling under severe financial stress,” said a senior executive at a telco.

Operators have also stressed in their letters that Aadhaar-based verification was swifter and worked well in rural market, but now they will have to work with telecom department to come up with alternative plans which will require time since telcos will have to train their workforce and educate consumers on new processes.

“We have highlighted that these factors will be challenging in the competitive market today,” said an executive of another telco who too was aware of his firm’s response to UIDAI.

Some of the telcos have asked for time to share their exit plans for migration to an alternative verification process since directions from DoT were still awaited.

A few days ago, the Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India (ACT), which includes industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), had approached DoT with other forms of verification process as an alternative to the current one based on Aadhaar. The operators are responding to the biometric authority’s letter sent a few days after Supreme Court barred private companies from using Aadhaar to validate the identity of customers.

The biometric regulatory body had also said that the operators should accept all requests for de-linking Aadhaar from mobile numbers and do fresh KYCs following DoT’s rules within six months from the date of such a request to avoid de-activation of the number.

Moreover, the carriers should let subscribers know of the way to delink their Aadhaar from the mobile numbers. For the operators, the apex court’s verdict put them in a flux since they were following DoT’s March circular which recommended the use of Aadhaar for biometric verification for eKYC, or electronic-know your customer.

However, the SC struck it down, declaring it “unconstitutional” as it did not meet “necessity stage” and “balancing stage” tests to check the primary menace which is in the mind of the respondent authorities. Although Aadhaar-based KYC was voluntary, over 90% of new subscriptions come using the unique ID.


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