Over the past few weeks, various government departments have made Aadhaar mandatory for welfare programmes. This, despite the fact that since 2013, the Supreme Court has issued at least half-a-dozen rulings saying the Aadhaar card should not be required as ID proof.
Why is this happening? The logic appears to be that the government departments are well within their rights to insist on Aadhaar verification as the apex court had only made opting for Aadhaar voluntary. In other words, citizens can opt out of Aadhaar enrolment if they want to, but government departments can insist on Aadhaar verification. Such a move is illegal, to say the least because it helps circumvent the court directives.
The irony is that most of the welfare programmes brought under the ambit of Aadhaar do not call for such verification. Take the mid-day meal scheme. There are enough ways to verify if the children are eligible for their small share of a noon meal. After all, students are admitted after sufficient scrutiny and in any case, most students join the neighbourhood school where teachers and parents know each other. Insisting on a complex identification system so that these children can avail themselves of a meal simply doesn’t make sense. On the contrary, it only burdens the children and their parents, and increases the chances of misuse and interference.
Another example is the ministry of social justice and employment asking disabled people receiving cash benefits under the Central Sector Scheme for Implementation of Persons with Disability Act 1995 to furnish Aadhaar as a form of identity. Interestingly, such moves come at a time when Aadhaar faces privacy and security concerns. Several reports have exposed vulnerabilities in the system. Experts have warned that this could be misused, leading to gross privacy violations. The Government should take a compassionate, rational stand on this matter.