No ‘Adhikaar’ Without Aadhaar for Mangolpuri Residents
The lack of Aadhaar cards hinders education and job opportunities for the poor in Delhi’s Mangolpuri.
Under the pale light of the winter sun, shadows of a group of young men dapple over the wall which divides the community park from Mangolpuri slum colony in north-west Delhi.
Appearing no more than 20 years of age, they stand holding bottles and glasses, ready to engage in their public drinking ritual, which is almost a daily practice now for the unemployed youth of the G-block area here.
Vegetable seller and Mangolpuri resident Saroj Devi's 20-year-old son is also an alcoholic like those in the park. He remains without a job because he missed out on a high school education. When asked why, Saroj had one answer – Aadhaar.
“When we wanted to get our son admitted into the nearby government school, they asked for his Aadhaar as part of required documentation. But he didn’t have one, that’s why he didn’t get to study in Delhi. Now he can’t find any job, which creates a lot of problems for me and my husband.”Saroj Devi, Mangolpuri resident
Her 50-year-old husband, who works as a night guard for the Kali Mata temple in Pitampura, has no relief of retirement.
This is the case of many migrants from the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, who came and settled in Mangolpuri slum colony, commonly known as Jhuggi Jhopri (JJ) cluster.
While notified slums are guaranteed basic provisions, they suffer from dilapidation and overcrowding due to large-scale migration of undocumented workers, a majority from Bihar and UP.
Amid her usual afternoon chatter with friends, Lakshmi Bitoliya narrates the unfortunate case of her youngest son.
“When we came here in 2017, my 16-year-old son Sahil couldn’t get admission in the Government Co-Ed Senior Secondary School in G-block because he didn’t have an Aadhaar card. We tried to get one made and were sent as far as Kanjhawala for this purpose, but in vain. It took three months and around Rs 1,000 in travel and other fees, but some confusion over some other documentation did not make him eligible to get one.”Lakshmi Bitoliya, Mangolpuri resident
Sahil then moved back to Agra to enroll himself in a small private school. This took a lot of mental and financial toll on the family. However, this issue is not a new one.
Despite a 2018 Supreme Court order, there are certain schools that refuse to give admission without Aadhaar card.
Many, especially the poor, face problems in producing the required documents. Others suffer due to frequent error-ridden handiwork of government officials.
Kamaldeep, who works in a car shop, had to wait for a month before his misspelled name on the Aadhaar could be changed. His employers had asked for a bank account to transfer his monthly salary before giving him the job. Due to the mistake in his Aadhaar card, he couldn’t open a bank account.
“I nearly lost my job. If there was any further delay in getting the mistake on my Aadhaar fixed, I would have been unemployed today.”Kamaldeep, Mangolpuri resident
For students who don't have Aadhaar, the only option is to drop out of government schools or enroll themselves in private schools, if they can afford it. Most of them are not aware of the laws in place or the legal recourse available. Many also feel they are not in a position to question authorities and lack the resources to do so.
Aadhaar is not the only document of contention. Obtaining a voter ID is another hindrance to the exercise of their rights. In G-block, home owners are notorious for withholding address proof of the tenants migrating from small towns and villages. The inability of these people to prove their residence inevitably disqualifies them from becoming “voting citizenry.”
“If you don’t have proper documents like Aadhaar or voting ID, you’re a nobody in the eyes of the government.”Kiran Kashyap, Student
Twenty-year old Kashyap has been living in Mangolpuri G-block for the last 10 years after moving from Budaun in Uttar Pradesh. She was unable to get her voting ID because the home owner refused to provide her with either the electricity or water bill.
Kashyap explains why people in her neighbourhood lack documents, which obstructs their path to getting a good education. She herself had to face a lot of problems while getting admission into a prominent government college.
“We are harassed by our home owners and the government alike. If I hadn’t gotten admission, I would also have been forced to become a domestic help, cooking in other people’s houses like my mother.”Kiran Kashyap, Mangolpuri resident
Some residents said that they go back to their villages to cast their vote. Others simply don't vote because they can't afford to travel. They are, hence, resigned to their disenfranchisement.
School Authorities Ignore, Say Residents
The administration of the nearby government school remains unsympathetic to these concerns, claim the residents. There are two schools located in each block of the JJ colonies. RS Pandey, who oversees the process of admission in one of the schools, said, “The student enrollment has been very low in the past years. The school seats are not being filled up. Some 30 are taken up for every 50 seats in a class”.
When questioned about kids being denied admission over lack of Aadhaar, Pandey said he is not aware of such trends and denied asking for an Aadhaar card during admission.
Meanwhile, the principal of the school, HL Gauhania, boasted of an Aadhaar enrollment camp organised by the MLA in his school which, according to him, had ensured everyone had an Aadhaar card.
“If someone was left out, it’s their responsibility as an Indian to get it (Aadhaar) made. No excuses should be given regarding this.”HL Gauhania, School Principal
While Gauhania refuses to budge, kids in the locality continue to suffer due to the lack of an Aadhaar card.
(The author is a student of journalism at Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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