Kanal 2
16:15 - 16:40
No Digital Rights if You Are Marginalized in India


India's biometrics ID -- Aadhaar -- might be the most unique and the largest of such programmes in the entire world but its use for public welfare has led to massive exclusion of marginalised communities. Not a single one of the 200+ indigenous languages of India is used to provide information about Aadhaar, a programme that deals with many digital rights areas such as privacy, data protection, surveillance, and most importantly, a fundamental right -- right to life.


The Adivasis, primarily the indigenous peoples, constitute 8.6% of India's 1.31 billion total population, and they speak over 200 languages. I interviewed elders from different Adivasi groups who speak languages without official recognitions while making the 2021 documentary "MarginalizedAadhaar". Though Aadhaar's original design drifting away from being a digital ID to add function creeps, much less is known about the success with massive enrolment of Aadhaar. In my feature talk, I will be elucidating the issues with lack of access to digital literacy and how that such issues are directly responsible to create, what prominent human rights advocate Dr Usha Ramanathan calls, a "techno-utopia".

Adivasis and many other minority-language speakers have long been discriminated in India which has led to a skewed literacy rate. For instance, Adivasis have a literacy rate slightly above 40% in contrast to almost double the rate when it comes to the average literacy rate of India. The literacy rate of Adivasi women is less than 40%. While privacy is guaranteed as a fundamental right in India since 2017, there is hardly much effort for improving the literacy about the same. Aadhaar as a centralised database is used for authentication for providing ration, subsidised food grains, and even relief in places during government-imposed lockdown to fight COVID-19.

I plan to showcase select field recordings with some of the interviewees from the film archival to illustrate key findings around literacy of digital rights. (Panigrahi) I would also draw parallels on the need of proactive literacy for digital rights and marginalisation based on the gaps that are highlighted in the film -- the entire film will be available for screening at re:publica.



Panigrahi, Subhashish. “7th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC).” An Account of How Critical Information about Privacy Is Missing in Indigneous Languages of India and Ways to Avoid It, 2021.