Poor Still Face Aadhaar Exclusion, Even A Year After SC Verdict
Denials of benefits continue in Jharkhand, and have even begun in Odisha.
Video Editor: Vishal Kumar
On 26 September 2018, the Supreme Court delivered its much-awaited Aadhaar judgment. A 4:1 majority upheld most of the Aadhaar Act 2016, only reading down the law to ensure it could not be used to make mandatory the linking of Aadhaar to private services.
In upholding Section 7 of the Act, the majority judgment, authored by Justice AK Sikri, said that Aadhaar could continue to be made mandatory to avail of the benefits of government welfare schemes. However, the judgment specifically held that lack of Aadhaar or authentication failures should not be grounds for denial of benefits, saying in para 319 that:
“We again emphasise that no person rightfully entitled to the benefits shall be denied the same on such grounds. It would be appropriate if a suitable provision be made in the concerned regulations for establishing an identity by alternate means, in such situations.”
Prior to the judgment, reports abounded from Jharkhand and other states of cases where people had been denied benefits because of lack of Aadhaar, or authentication failures – even leading to their deaths because of starvation. The UIDAI’s own presentation in court showed that Aadhaar authentication failed 12 percent of the time when it came to government services.
Affidavits were submitted to the court by activists including Jean Dreze and economists like Reetika Khera regarding the denial of benefits in Jharkhand.
The majority judgment disregarded this evidence, saying this was a disputed issue of fact, and instead accepted the Centre’s submissions that measures had been put in place to ensure no such exclusions took place.
To find out if the Supreme Court judgment was in fact being followed, The Quint spoke to Reetika Khera (currently an Associate Professor at IIM Ahmedabad), as well as activists and experts who have been tracking this issue.
- Sameet Panda, an activist from Odisha, informed us of how denial of benefits had started even in Odisha now – a state which had long been reluctant to make Aadhaar-PDS linkage mandatory. He shared videos of villagers from the state who’d been denied all or part of the rations they were entitled to, which you can watch in the video above.
- Siraj Dutta, who works in social policy in Jharkhand, explained the ways in which exclusions continue to take place even after the Supreme Court judgment, and shared videos from the ground of people facing exclusion because of disabilities, authentication failures because of old age and more.
- Rajendran Narayanan, a faculty member at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, explained how wages are being diverted from NREGA workers and others relying on Aadhaar-based payments.
Watch the video for a sobering reality check, and to hear from those who are facing the consequences of the Aadhaar juggernaut.
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