It's not just Indian citizens who have to get their mobile numbers verified. NRIs and foreign tourists coming to India too have to get their mobile numbers verified even though they don't possess Aadhaar. The Telecom Department and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) are in discussions to put in place a method for mobile number verification of NRIs and foreign tourists who are not eligible for Aadhaar. A decision on evolving SIM verification method for these NRIs and foreign tourists is expected to be taken in 2-3 weeks, said Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan.
In the absence of Aadhaar, one of the alternative mechanisms for verification of mobile numbers of foreign tourists could be through passport, but no decision has been taken yet on the matter.
According to Sundararajan, the need for SIM verification arose in the wake of rising complaints about mobile connections being issued without proper due diligence by telecom operators (and later such SIMs being used by terrorists and fraudsters).
"So, it is in the subscribers own interest and for their security. Especially, in a world of galloping digital payments where everybody is using their mobile phones, one needs to make sure that no one else fraudulently takes a mobile phone in your name," added Sundararajan.
Lately, the government eased the process of linking mobile number with Aadhaar for its citizens with the help of OTP. In this regard telecom operators have been asked to submit to UIDAI by November 15 a blueprint of the process to operationalise the new modes (including OTP) of SIM re-verification through Aadhaar.
Apart from OTP (one time password), now app or IVRS facility can also be used for linking mobile number with Aadhaar.
"The operators have been asked to draw up a process incorporating new guidelines and come back to UIDAI by November 15. Once the UIDAI gives them clearance, they will have to implement the new system within a period of two weeks," Sundararajan added.
However, the authentication of mobile phone number with Aadhaar, a process called re-verification, by visiting stores of telecom firms will continue. Telecom operators will deploy iris devices at "appropriate number of service points" so subscribers have access to iris authentication "within a reasonable geographical distance".
Linking mobile number with Aadhaar has raised some security concerns among people. Earlier, a petition was filed against the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers. The petition asked the apex court to provide "a direction to the Telecom Service Providers' to stop advertisements as well as SMS and misinforming the citizens of India about the actual import of the said order." The petition referred to DoT's notification, directing the linking of numbers with biometric-based identity card.
Linking the mobile number with Aadhaar doesn't find favour even with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. On Wednesday she refused to link her mobile number with Aadhaar and said, "We will not link mobile with Aadhaar. If we do not have a mobile connection for that, so be it. I challenge that I will not provide my Aadhaar number even if my connection is stopped. I don't care."
She termed the linking of Aadhaar with mobile number a breach of right of privacy. "This means even a private conversation between a husband and a wife is going to be tapped."
With inputs from PTI