In July, when Radha Bedi (name changed on request) resumed work as a home tutor for children in central Mumbai, one housing society stopped her at the gates. Entry would be allowed only if she had the Aarogya Setu app on her phone, the security guard told her.

Aarogya Setu was launched in April as the Indian government’s tool for contact-tracing people infected with the Covid-19 virus. Since the app was not mandatory, and was mired in controversies about data privacy, Bedi refused to download it.

She was allowed into the building after her student’s father negotiated with the housing society, but in October, Bedi found herself blocked by another residential building. The student’s family was forced to find a cumbersome way around it: “The parents meet me outside the gates and escort me in by showing the guard the app on one of their phones.”

The arrangement has worked so far, but Bedi is still disgruntled.

“This whole app seems utterly arbitrary,” she said. “If it’s so easy to circumvent it, what is the point of it? And what about people without smartphones? Will buildings not allow them to enter?”

Is it effective?

On its website, the Aarogya Setu or Health Bridge app claims its purpose is to enable “community-driven contact...

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