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Don’t make Aadhaar mandatory for food subsidy, say activists

Fingerprints of a customer being verified at a PDS shop in Hyderabad.

Fingerprints of a customer being verified at a PDS shop in Hyderabad.   | Photo Credit: P.V. Sivakumar

Expressing discontentment over the Centre’s notification to make Aadhaar number mandatory for accessing subsidised food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), members of the Right to Food Campaign (RFC) have demanded that such notifications be revoked.

RFC’s convener Kavita Srivastava said that on the February 8, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution made possession of an Aadhaar number mandatory for accessing subsidised food grains under the NFSA. Earlier, on February 6, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had issued a notification that made Aadhaar a must for Anganwadi workers and helpers. Last month, the Ministry of Rural Development made it mandatory for all MGNREGA workers to get Aadhaar numbers by March 31.

“These notifications are in blatant violation of Supreme Court orders which unequivocally make Aadhaar ‘purely voluntary’ till a final judgement is passed in the matter, and stand despite the passage of the Aadhaar Act of 2016,” she said, adding that apart from this disregard for the rule of law, the notifications betray the Centre’s unwillingness to learn from the experience of large-scale exclusion of people caused by making legally guaranteed services contingent upon producing an Aadhaar number.

 

‘Poor will be hit’

Ms. Srivastava pointed out that by making the Aadhaar mandatory, the Centre is effectively hitting out at the most vulnerable. “In the PDS specifically, data from Jharkhand and Rajasthan shows that up to 30% of beneficiaries are not being able to receive entitlements through the Aadhaar-linked biometric authentication system,” she said.

Ms. Srivastava said that while the need of the hour is to make these schemes accessible for all by removing any bottlenecks, making the UID mandatory only serves to exclude the poorest and most marginalised.

“Aadhaar system requires the Internet, electricity, a functional PoS machine, remote servers and sometimes mobile networks. We believe that access to food under the NFSA cannot be made dependent upon a system that requires multiple fragile technologies to work simultaneously and perfectly,” she added.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 4:42:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dont-make-aadhaar-mandatory-for-food-subsidy-say-activists/article17321875.ece

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