The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the government’s version of Aadhaar as a unique identifier that will benefit the poor to access welfare services. It asked how will the lakhs of homeless people in the country get the Aadhaar card without a permanent address.
The 2011 Census revealed that there are 1.77 million homeless people in the country. They constitute 0.15% of the total population.
“Does this mean that they [the homeless] do not exist for the Government of India,” Justice Madan B. Lokur, who heads the Social Justice Bench, asked.
The issue arose during a hearing on lack of night shelters for the homeless. The court had summoned the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary to explain the lack of night shelters, especially with North India in the grip of a cold wave.
The Bench asked whether a permanent address was mandatory for Aadhaar enrolment and consequent welfare services and the Uttar Pradesh government replied in the affirmative.
“So, how do homeless people get Aadhaar if they have no home or a permanent address,” Justice Lokur shot back.
Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, for the U.P. government, said it would be wrong to say the homeless population did not “exist” for the Union. He said that he also appeared for the UIDAI, Aadhaar’s nodal agency, in the Supreme Court.
Urban homeless are mostly migrants
He reasoned that the urban homeless were mostly migrants from the rural parts of the country. They would have a permanent address in their native villages and would have or could apply for Aadhaar there.
Mr. Mehta said he would get further instructions from the UIDAI on this aspect.
The court criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for its poor implementation of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) scheme, which had existed since 2014.
“We are talking about human beings who have no place to stay. Those who have no place to stay have to be given a place to live,” Justice Lokur observed orally.
Mr. Mehta said the State was alive to the situation and was doing its best to provide shelter to the urban homeless. He referred to the vision document prepared by the Uttar Pradesh government to deal with the issue of urban homeless. As per the 2011 census, there were around 1.80 lakh urban homeless in the State, he said.