The Ministry of Home Affairs has made it mandatory for government and private sector employees to use the COVID-19 contact tracing app Aarogya Setu as it extended the lockdown for two more weeks post May 3 but with certain exemptions.
The new guidelines have clearly stated that the use of the Aarogya Setu app is mandatory for all employees and it shall be the responsibility of the head of the respective organizations to ensure 100% coverage of this app among its employees.
Any negligence, if proven, on the part of a director, manager, secretary, or any other official shall lead to punishment, the order said.
According to the order, private offices can operate with up to 33% work strength in red zones from May 4 and remaining employees working from home but there is again no clarity on the maximum workforce allowed to function in green and orange zones.
The government has divided India’s districts into red, orange, and green zones depending on the number of positive COVID-19 cases.
This announcement comes three days after the central government had mandated all its employees, including outsourced staff, to download the app. An office memorandum was issued with directions to be strictly followed for the safety of all government officials even as serious privacy concerns have been raised with the app.
While it is compulsory for all ground staff working with e-commerce platforms to download the app, MHA has also ordered the local authorities to ensure 100% coverage of the app in red or containment zones.
Meanwhile, the government is also planning to expand the Aarogya Setu app to all feature phones as well through an interactive voice response system (IVRS). It is looking to partner with telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone-Idea for the same, a report in ET said.
Ever since the Aarogya Setu app was launched on April 2, the government has left no stone unturned to encourage more downloads and increase its usage. The app had recently crossed 75 million downloads and looks set to reach 100 million downloads soon.
However, the app has also alarmed some activists and people alike over privacy issues. Many privacy crusaders have been expressing serious concerns over the kind of surveillance the app could lead to.
The government has denied the privacy breach charges as baseless and that the app will be used for surveillance.