Paper Title: “The Living Dead”: Orphaning in Aadhaar-enabled Distribution of Welfare Pensions in Rajasthan
Authors: Ranjit Singh
Journal: PUBLIC Journal: Art Culture Ideas
This paper follows the mutual shaping of the lives of citizens and their data records to illustrate how precarious forms of citizenship emerge in the use of biometrics-based data infrastructures for governance. It presents a case of using Aadhaar, India’s biometrics-based national identification infrastructure, to deliver welfare pensions to the elderly, widows, and the disabled in Rajasthan. In March 2016, pensions of about 757,000 beneficiaries were cancelled for reasons ranging from the beneficiary is “dead” or “duplicate” to other ineligibility criteria such as age or income. When Right to Information activists organized public hearings on these cancellations, they found many beneficiaries declared “dead” on record were alive and had stopped receiving welfare benefits. This paper explores this case of the “living dead” to conceptualize orphaning from data infrastructures as processes that sever the relationship between the lives of data subjects and their representation through data records to produce data-driven marginality.
I presented this paper and received fabulous feedback in the following venues:
Ranjit Singh, ‘“The Living Dead”: Orphaning in Aadhaar-enabled Distribution of Welfare Pensions in Rajasthan’, in a workshop on CONTESTED DATA: What Happens When the Givens Aren’t Taken (New York City: Data & Society, 6 March 2020).
Ranjit Singh, ‘Thinking Through Orphaning in Aadhaar-enabled Distribution of Welfare Pensions in Rajasthan’, in a panel on Socio(technical) figurations of Death at the Northeast STS Graduate Student Conference (Troy: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 6-7 March 2020).