Resigned or sacked?: Airtel Payments Bank CEO and controversy over Aadhaar e-KYC

Airtel

Bharti Airtel’s Payments Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shashi Arora has quit amid controversy of UIDAI and Airtel’s Aadhaar based SIM e-KYC. This has generated discussions inside the industry.

Anonymous sources in the space said, his removal was led by controversy on the process adopted to open payments bank accounts without subscribers informed consent, which led the Unique Identification Authority (UIDAI) to take action on Airtel.

However, Arora denied the report of leaving the company owing to the allegations from UIDAI. He said that his decision on resigning from the company was on work for long.

“I quit a couple of weeks ago and I am on notice period till January 31. I will be joining a non-financial-non-banking industry post that. I have been serving notice period and incidentally I will be completing 12 years with the company on January 31,” Arora said.

Airtel spokesperson also clarified that Arora had resigned and not sacked, adding that he has been an asset for Airtel.

Shashi Arora early years and UIDAI controversy

Shashi Arora has been working with Airtel in senior leadership roles since 2006. He was appointed MD and CEO of Airtel Payments Bank on June 1, 2016.

The company was barred by UIDAI following allegations that Bharti Airtel was using the Aadhaar e-KYC-based SIM verification process to open payments bank accounts of its subscribers without their informed consent. Security and privacy of Aadhaar data have been fiercely debated and the Supreme Court is currently looking into its various aspects.

The UIDAI later temporarily allowed Airtel to do eKYC for its customers until January 10. It continues to maintain the suspension of the payments bank online verification.

However, on Thursday UIDAI allowed Bharti Airtel to use Aadhaar for re-verification of its mobile customers after it returned Rs 138 crore of LPG subsidy remitted to the unsolicited payments bank accounts.

The temporary relief to Airtel came at a time when government’s deadline to link Aadhaar with mobile SIMs extended to 31 March following the apex court’s directive. Notably, the company deposited Rs 2.5 crore as a penalty to UIDAI for violating its guidelines.

UIDAI has also asked apex banking body Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Department of Telecom (DoT) and audit and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an audit to ascertain if Airtel’s systems and processes are in compliance with the Aadhaar Act or not.

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