The Central government has made Aadhaar mandatory for verification — and reverification — of mobile numbers, with the exercise expected to be completed by the end of this calendar year. The move will cost telecom firms in the country around Rs 1,000 crore in total, and not wanting to bear that financial burden, they may want to pass it on to customers.
Therefore, expect to pay at least some amount — or it could be deducted from your mobile balance — when you submit your Aadhaar number for verification of your mobile number. On the other end, you can rest safe in the knowledge that this step alone can ensure a lot of security in the country, with the government in the know of how many telephone numbers actually belong to a single person.
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The benefits and concerns
The step of bringing Aadhaar together with mobile numbers itself is a huge move forward in many ways. It will help keep track of people if and when they change carriers or numbers, so that unpaid bills can be followed up on. It will also help intelligence agencies zero in on people who hold multiple numbers and use them for suspicious activities. Also, because Aadhaar requires people's biometrics to be recorded, it will also have huge implications for security.
However, along with these will come some concerns for privacy and safety. No person without an Aadhaar card or number will be able to obtain a mobile number. Another question that will be asked is what happens to phone numbers taken by parents for their underage children.
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The Supreme Court had on February 6 given the Centre and all mobile service providers in exactly one year to link the numbers — both new and existing — to their corresponding owners' Aadhaar numbers. The exercise is estimated to cost Rs 1,000 crore.
Now, mobile telecom companies in India already provide some of the cheapest call and data rates in the world due to tough competition, and they would not want their profits to shrink any further by taking on the financial burden of this exercise. Therefore, chances are that the cost of this linking will be passed on to customers in the form of some fee or the other. So be prepared to pay for your phone number to be linked to your Aadhaar number.