Excluded by Aadhaar: The Poor Who Are Denied Rations and Pensions
Can having no Aadhaar card deny the poor pensions and rations they are entitled to receive? Turns out, yes.
Even as the Supreme Court hears petitions challenging the validity of making Aadhaar compulsory to avail various government services, there are several around the country who are struggling to receive their rations and pensions, merely because they either do not possess an Aadhaar card or have not linked it to the requisite service.
Development economist Jean Dreze, economist and IIT Professor Reetika Khera, independent researcher Anmol Somanchi, and JNU PhD scholar Nazar Khalid travelled across the heart of rural Jharkhand in 2017 to find out the ground realities of how Aadhaar is affecting people’s lives.
From Olasi, who cannot walk to an Aadhaar booth, to Chander, who can’t get an Aadhaar because he has no other identity proof, to Asha Devi Gozu, whose pension has been discontinued due to a typo in her Aadhaar card here are the stories of those who have been left behind by Aadhaar.
Too Late for Linking?
The researchers observe, “In October 2016, the district administration in Khunti, Jharkhand stopped paying social security pensions to those who had failed to link their Aadhaar number with the relevant bank account and pension list. Some of them were able to do so later, and their pension resumed, but they lost the payments due to them in the intervening period. Others are still struggling to set things right, or have lost hope.”
“Around June-July 2017, the Jharkhand government mass-cancelled ration cards not linked with Aadhaar,” researchers observed.
Confused, and Without a Pension
The Centre, on 7 December, extended the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to 31 March 2018 for availing welfare schemes. A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising CJI Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justice Ashok Bhushan, are currently hearing the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar. Meanwhile, before the Centre’s deadline and the Supreme Court’s verdict comes through, many in rural Jharkhand continue to suffer.
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