The Aarogya Setu app could become the key facilitator for travel in India, now in the lockdown because of the COVID pandemic, but also potentially in the post COVID world as well. It is believed that once the lockdown is over in individual states, there may be a centralized e-pass which will be issued after self-validation using the Aarogya Setu app. The indications are there already. The Indian Railways made it mandatory for all passengers on trains to have the government’s Aarogya Setu app installed on their phones—and that is applicable for the special trains and Shramik trains that are operational at this time. But what does this all mean?
The Government is potentially working on a system whereby travel is linked to your health, and your health data is not only logged but also can be helpful in indicating a possible health threat. Government sources tell News18 that for interstate travel and movement, the Aarogya Setu app could be used for self-certification, following which the e-pass will be confirmed. This means that before you travel, you must certify your health with the Aarogya Setu app. We at this time still do not know whether this self-certification process also involves sharing data about the travel details—destination, time and date of travel, mode of transport etc. At this time, indications suggest that this could be applicable for interstate travel.
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The question also arises about whether this will also be mandatory for those may cross state borders daily to travel to work or home. It is also not confirmed yet whether this will include all types of personal travel or will focus instead on modes of transport such as trains and interstate buses. We do not yet have details on whether movement of commercial goods will be impacted by this. To iron out the details, the government intends to meet with all stakeholders in the coming days to work out how this can, if at all, work.
Government sources also say that strict legal provisions could also be in place, which would mean false or incorrect declarations on the Aarogya Setu app could land individuals in jail. It is believed that the Government will discuss the plans with all stakeholders soon.
Ahead of the special train services which started earlier this week, the Indian Railways made it mandatory for all passengers to have verified their declarations on the Aarogya Setu app before boarding. “Indian Railways is going to start few passenger train services. It is mandatory for passengers to download Aarogya Setu app in their mobile phones, before commencing their journey,” the Indian Railways had said in a tweet at the time. Tickets can only be booked via the IRCTC website. It is also mandatory to use the Aarogya Setu app if you live in or travel to the city of Noida, where being outdoors without the app installed on your phone, is a crime. It is expected that airlines will also make it mandatory for passengers to self-certify via the Aarogya Setu app before they board a flight. Those who may be considered a health risk will not be allowed to board.
Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given the first hints that the Aarogya Setu app could be used to facilitate travel within the country.