Many IT companies And Other Industries Are Saying ‘Aadhaar Is Mandatory For Availing Provident Fund’ But Is It? — Here’s What An RTI Reply From EPFO Said
Recently I received a joining letter from a reputed IT company of India which has its headquarters in Bengaluru (or Bangalore). There wasn’t much to the joining letter except mentioning Aadhaar card as the mandatory document for onboarding. Now for people living under rocks, Aadhaar card is a new identity card issued by the government of India that captures not just your name, address, and photograph but also biometric information like fingerprints and iris scanning. Every Indian already owns one or the other existing identity cards that up to this time were all that was required, but for some reasons all-of-a-sudden they have all been pushed to corners in a new world where Aadhaar has taken center stage. I have never understood the purpose of Aadhaar or the problem that it resolves or what was it that existing identity cards didn’t solve which Aadhaar can; except of course the behemoth of a tool called surveillance that Aadhaar can so easily accomplish for corporates and governments to benefit from. There is nothing in Aadhaar for a common man to gain despite all the tall claims of the government saying so. For this reason, I have always tried in my capacity to avoid Aadhaar. As a case in Supreme Court was ongoing which directed to indefinitely extend SIM card and bank accounts linking with Aadhaar, I assumed there must be some typographical error from the company and that they must be meaning, Aadhaar is one of the many documents which should be mandatorily submitted for onboarding process. But that was not all of it. And I was in for some rude surprise on onboarding day.
I walked into the room already filled with around 20 or so candidates. Took a seat close to the back wall and closer to the door and sat quietly. After around 30 minutes of waiting from scheduled time came a gentleman and announced the schedule for the day. He also announced the documents required and listed almost every document present out there. Then he asked,
Does everyone have Aadhaar? Is there anyone who doesn’t have it?
Everyone nodded their heads. I said nothing. I had enrolled for Aadhaar too like everyone in the room. I had Aadhaar but I do not want to give Aadhaar unless I was absolutely sure there was no escape from giving it. I had all other identity and address proofs including passport in place of Aadhaar. So to answer his question, like every other sheep there was in the room, I too nodded in unison.
After a while came the other guy who started listing mandatory documents to be furnished to complete the onboarding process. He again listed Aadhaar and this time I couldn’t hold anymore so,
Me: Is Aadhaar one of the optional document that needs to be furnished or the mandatory ones?
Him: Mandatory! Why? Don’t you have Aadhaar?
Me: I do. But I want to save myself from giving it if other government-issued proofs could do their job.
Him: No. Aadhaar is mandatory.
Me: But I also have passport…
Him: That’s alright but you have to provide Aadhaar otherwise your onboarding will be delayed. Your employee ID won’t be generated soon and…
Me: But why is Aadhaar mandatory? Even Supreme Court had recently said for SIM cards and bank linking that Aadhaar is not mandatory for availing them. Then why here?
Him: It is govt mandated for PF accounts.
Me: So you can’t proceed without Aadhaar?
Me: By you, I meant the XYZ company… ‘Aadhaar is mandatory’ — Who is saying this? You, the person or the company?
Him: Company. Everything I say is by company… On behalf of the company.
Me: Okay. Just to be clear… Why I ask this specific question is, I will tomorrow file an RTI query with PF body and if they answer anything otherwise, you know, it would be problematic.
Him: Go file…
I came home after this and filed an online RTI application with EPFO.
This was my first time filing RTI online. I have filed many handwritten ones via post and there’s been some learning. Topmost of them is to have simple questions and restrict yourself to only one if possible. I have had past experience where they would just reply ‘You can ask only one question per RTI application’ and return it without answering. So I went with just one this time. And to my disbelief, they were quick to reply.
So it is not mandatory.
By the way, while I was in that hall and the person in charge was saying it was mandatory, I had googled to find out if Aadhaar was mandatory for availing PF and most of the sites there were did say it was and how that’s why all IT companies are asking for Aadhaar because of it. But now I know better and so do you. I have dropped an email to my HR and their heads regarding this. I hope you my dear reader will do the same too.
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