HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, HSPH; Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law, HLS


Research on the global growth of digital identification programs has been largely silent on the implications for children and on birth registration. We conducted a mixed methods study with children, caregivers, and service providers in the Indian city of Varanasi to examine access to, and perceptions of, birth registration and Aadhaar. Findings show enrollment in Aadhaar far exceeds birth registration for both children and their caregivers, and that many respondents believe that Aadhaar enrollment is mandatory, and equates to securing proof of citizenship. Respondents described similar challenges with birth registration and Aadhaar, including that both can be falsified to support child labor and child trafficking. We suggest that promoting Aadhaar enrollment over birth registration undermines the critical role of birth registration in providing the state with comprehensive and actionable public health data. Links between birth registration and Aadhaar should be strengthened and their role in advancing child protection more closely examined.


Bhatia, Amiya, Elizabeth Donger, and Jacqueline Bhabha. "‘Without an Aadhaar card nothing could be done’: a mixed methods study of biometric identification and birth registration for children in Varanasi, India." Information Technology for Development 27.1 (January 2021): 129-149.