Thousands of government school students, who missed getting enrolled in the scheme, are denied benefit

Though the Supreme Court has ruled that Aadhaar membership is not mandatory for accessing benefits, thousands of students in Jharkhand government schools who missed enrolling for the scheme, are unable to get scholarships.

Even MGNERGS workers in Ranchi, which was a pilot district in 2011-12 for linking the rural job scheme to Aadhaar, have not been paid through Aadhaar since the government discontinued its pilot in three panchayats here 10 months ago.

Seven scholarship schemes were among the 13 linked to Aadhaar in phase-II of the project begun this year. “In pre-matric scholarships for SC, ST and OBC in Ranchi, Ratu, Nagri, from over 13,000 earlier, now the number of students is 9000, which is worrying. In one school in Ranchi we found the students who had not enrolled [for Aadhaar] had been absent 10-12 days a month. Many of these children worked part-time pulling rickshaws or the girls discreetly worked as domestic help in the morning before attending school,” said an official.

Data from the district welfare office show that 23, 817 children availed themselves of post-matric scholarships for the SC/ST and OBCs — one of the seven schemes linked to Aadhaar — in 2011-12. But in 2012-13, after Aadhaar was made mandatory for students, this dropped by 35 per cent to 15,638. The sharpest reduction is in the number of beneficiaries from tribal families. In 2011-12, 16,058 ST students got scholarships, while the next year this fell to 8,985.

At Hanjed, a tribal village in Bundu block, one of the worst conflict-affected areas, 40 km from Ranchi, school staff have expressed concern that children may get excluded from schemes.

“Their parents are poor farmers and need scholarships to buy notebooks, stationery and chappals for the children. Every day I ask the children to go to the block office to enrol [under Aadhaar]. Last year 29 of 36 students in Class VIII did not have UID [Unique Identification Number] and have not got their scholarships which would come by this year,” said Arjun Mahto, principal of the government middle school. School teachers are still trying to get 21 of the 159 students, who got left out, enrolled for Aadhaar.

Forty km away at Sonahatu, 272 of the 286 Class X students in Rajsamposhit High School are SC, ST or OBC and qualify for scholarships. But only 12 of them have enrolled for Aadhaar, which is less than 5 per cent.

“Many of the girls live 12-15 km away in their in-laws’ house. Either they did not find out in time about enrolment or the Bank of India turned them away,” said principal Jaimasih Kerketta.

Till last year, the School Development Committee — consisting of the principal, parents of students from SC, ST families, and other members — would distribute cash received from the Welfare Department. “Even if the children were absent or were away visiting relatives, they would come to school after hearing about it [distribution], even dropouts would come,” said Sandhya Kumari, principal of Maharani Prem Manjari Girls’ High School in Ratu block.

When this reporter visited the school, 150 of the 504 students were absent. Though there was no computer, the school had to send a digitised list of beneficiaries to the welfare office for the fourth time this year after 25 new students, who did not have Aadhaar, enrolled in the institution.

The school staff said they were uncertain whether UID was mandatory or not. “Without Aadhaar card no scholarships will be disbursed,” notes a letter, dated August 12, from Tribal Welfare Commissioner Rajiv A. Ekka to the Welfare Department. Officials say if a child does not have the Aadhaar card, schools are supposed to send a separate list for payment through the old method. But of the 239 middle and high schools in Ratu, Nagri and Ranchi, no school has submitted a separate list, say officials.

In Ranchi city, at Shiv Narayan Girls’ High School, of 850 students, 536 are eligible for SC, ST, OBC stipends. Bindu Kumari, a Class VIII student, whose mother works as a tea vendor, missed enrolling in Aadhaar last year.

A district UID officer, however, said officials would intervene once errors were brought to their notice. “For instance, a B. Tech student from Tatislive got her details corrected in mid-August.”