With 7.4 crore enrolments, State has covered 65 per cent of its population

For a State that prides itself on its Aadhaar enrolments, Maharashtra’s plans to make the number mandatory for LPG subsidies by March 2014, could be derailed by the Supreme Court’s interim order on Monday.

The court said UID compliance could not be a pre-requisite for accessing welfare schemes. Maharashtra ranks second behind Andhra Pradesh in UID enrolments. With 7.4 crore enrolments so far, the State has covered 65 per cent of its population. It has already made Aadhaar compliance mandatory for LPG subsidies in Wardha district and planned to extend this rule throughout the State in the next few months.

“It is totally premature for me to comment. We have not seen the Supreme Court order. We will have to see how the UID authority interprets it,” said State IT Secretary Rajesh Agarwal.

Sources said the government could consider a scenario where those with Aadhaar numbers got LPG subsidy remitted to their bank accounts and others getting it up-front.

The court order that the Aadhaar number should be given only to Indian nationals could hit enrolments. Till now UID was seen as proof of residence, not nationality. “Very few people have proof of nationality like a passport,” points out Mr. Agarwal. Many are wondering whether the existing Aadhaar numbers will become invalid since they were allocated without considering proof of nationality. The State was not only planning to make the Aadhaar number mandatory for LPG subsidies but was also considering extending it to receipt of government salaries.

Critics of the scheme have questioned its status from the very inception. “Ä parliamentary standing committee rejected a Bill which proposed making the Unique Identification Authority of India a statutory authority. So how could this scheme be made mandatory by any State?” asks R. Ramakumar, assistant professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Opponents of the scheme have also pointed out that making it compulsory will exclude a large number of poor people from welfare schemes. “First, the enrolment is not hundred per cent. Secondly many poor people do not have bank accounts to receive subsidies. And third, the subsidy will not be received up-front. An LPG subsidy, for instance, will reach the bank account much later. How many poor people will be able to pay Rs. 900-1000 for a cylinder and wait for the subsidy to reach their account?” asks Kiran Moghe from the All-India Democratic Women’s Association.