Despite recent reiteration by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that no essential services or benefits would be denied to genuine beneficiaries for want of Aadhaar, there have been several such cases across the State.
While a major chunk of these denials have been in the Public Distribution System, incidents of denial of pensions, school scholarship, housing scheme, employment under MNREGA, and healthcare have been reported. These make up the 1,300 affidavits that Right to Food Campaign–Karnataka has submitted to the Supreme Court where the case is still pending.
Activists fear that such cases will only increase in the State with passing of the Karnataka Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill on February 21 in the Assembly. The Bill does have a no-denial clause, but it does little on the ground, they argue. “The disconnect between the official line and on-ground reality is stark,” said Kshitij Urs, who is part of the campaign.
For instance, according to affidavits, anecdotal assessment has pegged denial of ration on account of Aadhaar-related issues at 40%. Activists claim that a starvation death in Mangaluru in 2017 was due to denial of ration for lack of Aadhaar card.
Mokshamma from Raichur claimed many were being denied ration because of the failure of Aadhaar authentication at the ration shop. “Many times when we go, there is no power at the shop. We do hard labour every day and this often leads to fingerprint mismatch. We also cannot go often to the shop as we risk losing the day’s pay,” she said. “Many new mothers suffer from anaemia and this hampers biometric authentication,” she added.
Toll-free not popular
Despite the Food and Civil Supplies Department opening a toll-free line (1967) to lodge complaints on benefit denial issues, it has not been a popular option among people.
It’s not just ration that is being denied. Sadiya, a class 7 student of a government school in K.R. Market, Bengaluru, has not been receiving scholarship for two years now because of a spelling mistake in her name in her Aadhaar card. “The name is Sadiya, but has been spelt as Saziya. We tried correcting it several times but in vain,” said Taj, the girl’s mother.
Chandrika, a HIV+ person from Bengaluru, said Anti-retroviral Therapy treatment centres across the State have been demanding Aadhaar card to issue medicines, but many patients were concerned that submission of Aadhaar card may lead to disclosal of their identity. “The medicines are not being entirely denied. But until you submit Aadhaar, the centres are issuing medicines for only a week or two weeks, instead of a month,” she said.
Mariyamma, 30, a resident of Hosahalli camp in Raichur, said Aadhaar was made mandatory for employment under MNREGA and she was denied work for almost a year. But why did she delay getting a card? “Initially, they were enrolling us for Aadhaar at the panchayat office, but then they said it is not mandatory; so I neglected to do so. But when they made it mandatory, they had stopped enrolment at the panchayat office. Now we have to go to the nearby town, spend a whole day and pay money to get an Aadhaar card. It is difficult to forego a day’s pay to get a card,” she said.
A statement the UIDAI released on February 10 had said that such service and benefit denials were punishable under the laws of the land. “Under no circumstance can anyone be denied a service just because he/she doesn’t have an Aadhaar. If one does not have Aadhaar or if Aadhaar online verification is not successful due to some reason, the agency or department has to provide the service using alternative means of identification and recording them in exception registers,” it said.