23 May 2020  |   05:14am IST

When Arogya is your boarding pass, are Goans willing to fly?

The Arogya app is now necessary if one would like to board an aircraft. This app was developed by the government to help track the spread of Covid 19. However, fears have been expressed in some quarters that it could mean an invasion of privacy. Will this app deter people from flying? Café spoke to businessmen and people in the travel industry to understand what the feeling was on the ground.
When Arogya is your boarding pass, are Goans willing to fly?

Ajit John;

The vastness of this country makes it very challenging to administer it at the best of times. Now with the virus having spread across the country, the challenge is to control it and cure the people who have been infected. An app was created by the government to help them track the spread of the virus. The Aarogya Setu app a COVID-19 tracking mobile application was developed by the National Informatics Centre and that comes under the government Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It was a great piece of technology but fears were expressed it could be used to track the movement of people. The privacy of people could be compromised. Will big brother be watching in 2020 or is it a case of one’s imagination working overtime.

The response to the app has been varied, just like the landscape of this country.  Sanjeev Trivedi a businessman based in Goa said he could not travel now but that did not mean he would not in the future. He said “My knowledge on the issue is not fantastic, though I know one cannot take a flight without an app. I am not confident of travelling today. The government has not helped matters by knee jerk statements. We need to know the arrangements that have been made by the government on both ends of a journey. There was an article in the papers that MIT had down-graded the app because it asked for way too much information than what was needed. So, I need to learn more before I decide anything”. 

 Point noted but then what about foreigners living in Goa.  Steve Gutkin an American journalist residing in Goa for seven odd years was categorical when he said he would have to conduct more research before he decided on anything. He said “I will have to learn more and determine if there is an invasion of my privacy. If it is not a huge risks and I receive assurances from the government that my data will not be misused then it will not be a problem. There has to be oversight of all this, that is very important. It is needed in India and it is very important”.

For a man who is a senior member of the travel industry and former president of the TTAG, Savio Messias said this was unnecessarily causing more problems for travellers. He said “I may not want to but I have no options and that is a very uncomfortable situation to be in”.

This was in sharp contrast to Andre Shackleton, corporate trainer who said he had already downloaded it and was very comfortable with it. Asked about privacy issues he said “No doubt there are but I strongly believe every citizen should co-operate with the government, this disease has no politics”.

That clarity in action was missing as far as Kulashekhar Kantipudi was concerned. He said he had not downloaded the app and he did not intend to do so. He said “I am a little skeptical. We had the aadhar card and I am certain we are being tracked. I am aware that a government needs information to govern a country but there is no need to disturb the privacy of a citizen. Everything is fine when it is fine but when the situation turns bad, that is when the presence of all this data becomes a problem. I am not comfortable with quite a few apps presently”. 

 A more nuanced response was given by Kirit Maganlal, Founder and CEO of Magsons who said the fears over privacy was present with each and every app that was downloaded in one’s laptop or smart phone. No one he said knew as to what was happening with the data.  This app he said was only for the tracking of COVID 19 and he was ok with it but he could he said switch off his location on his phone while travelling.

 A more conventional argument was given by Kabir Pinto Makhija, Ex Deputy Mayor CCP who said “ If you want to fly follow all rules and regulations set down by the government.”

Jaison Fernnades a software professional and a frequent flier expressed his disappointment at the situation. He said “It’s disappointing to learn that the Aarogya Setu app will be mandatory for air travel. I learned recently that MIT downgraded the app because it was storing a lot more information than it needed in order to perform its function. Making this app mandatory will have a chilling effect on personal liberty. Citizens should be able to travel anywhere within India freely, this rule puts that entire concept in jeopardy. It’s partly due to privacy concerns that I have refrained from getting an Aadhar card as well, I will certainly do my best to avoid needing to install the app, even if that means refraining from travel till the courts are able to sort things out. Will the government also be providing free Android phones to those needing to travel who are still using feature phones?”

These are questions that will have to be answered by the government. One can only hope, the fears are addressed and assuaged.



Iddhar Udhar