Chandigarh administration aggressively pushes national health ID registrations among residents

A health worker instructs people waiting to see doctors after the OPD at the Government Multi Speciality Hospital in Sector 16, Chandigarh on 19 October 2020. Keshav Singh/Hindustan Times
15 December, 2020

In the first week of December, residents of Chandigarh sectors 18 and 19 received a WhatsApp message asking them to generate health IDs. The message was sent by health officials at the government dispensary for those sectors. The message shared a link to the national health ID page on the website of the National Digital Health Mission, the government agency set up to build integrated digital health infrastructure for the country. It said, “This is to be done for every member of the family so that COVID Vaccine distribution can be streamlined.” 

The health ID is a unique identification code for personal health records generated under the National Digital Health Mission. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the mission on 15 August 2020, and said that it would leverage technology for better health outcomes across the country. The government said that the health ID would be voluntary. It rolled the scheme out on trial basis in seven union territories including Chandigarh. In September, about a month after the trial started, The Caravan reported that the Chandigarh administration was pressuring doctors to register for health IDs, giving them 48-hour deadlines to register and threatening them with non-compliance reports if they did not register. The message now suggesting a link between having a health ID and getting the COVID-19 vaccine suggests that local authorities are trying to compel Chandigarh residents to also sign up.

The message said a person would need their Aadhaar to update their information on the NHDM website. It failed to mention the provision for people to create IDs without Aadhaar. It asked the recipient to submit data of all family members—full name, NDHM health ID, age, gender, address, and phone number—to the local dispensary after completing registration. In a postscript, the message asks recipients to widely share the content amongst family and friends in order to “maximise awareness towards fast registration of individuals online.”

Amandeep Kang, the director of health services for Chandigarh, said that she was aware of the message. She called it “an error made by some staff and we will ensure that such false information is not circulated again.” Kang said that the UT’s health department was linking COVID-19 vaccination to the generation of health IDs. “We have only been instructed by the central government to begin implementing the NDHM here so we are just counselling residents, sharing the benefits of the scheme with them so they register themselves readily.”