Statement: Victory! Aarogya Setu changes from mandatory to, “best efforts”.

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Yesterday evening as lockdown 4.0 was extended, we recorded a small but significant win. On May 2, based on your support, a letter was sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs by 45 civil society organisations and over 100 individuals clearly calling the Ministry to roll back an order requiring the mandatory use of Aarogya Setu (read more here).

On Sunday evening, as an incremental first step the installation of Aarogya Setu has now been changed to a best effort basis (read more here). Endorsement and advocacy efforts by diverse organisations from trade unions to gender justice collectives signed on to this joint letter. They played a significant role in this shift, and the demands under it were widely covered in the press.

This change also comes after the Kerala High Court agreed to hear a plea drafted by IFF lawyers on behalf of Jackson Mathew, Managing Partner of Leetha Industries (read more here). One of the main reliefs in this petition was for making Aarogya Setu purely voluntary. As per legal advice received from a skilled legal team led by Santhosh Mathewand Vrinda Bhandari, further steps will continue to be taken in this case.

But, work remains. Earlier, we noticed that within hours of this case getting activated, a “protocol” was also released that poorly addressed concerns of mass surveillance (read more here). Further the actual implementation may result in Aarogya Setu being “voluntary yet mandatory” in practice through other notifications and frameworks as being documented by a tracker created by the Internet Democracy Project (click here).

Today, let us remember that action matters. These small wins matter. They provide motivation and nourishment for the larger battles ahead. If you like IFF’s work on Aarogya Setu, I urge you to consider asking your friends, family and social networks to continue donating to us. Due to Covid our fundraising efforts have been impacted but we are confident that with your support we can weather this storm.

IFF is committed to being relentless in the defence of fundamental rights as technology becomes a core facet of the daily lives of crores of Indians.

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