Villages across southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been declared drought affected by the government, following the failure of the 2016 monsoon rains. A recent three-part series in Hindustan Times on the drought focused on the plight of farmers and labourers and their economic asset: Livestock. In such a calamitous situation, one would expect the state governments to be sympathetic to the difficulties faced by the farming community. But not when it comes to Karnataka. In the hinterlands of Karnataka that is battling a third successive drought year and increasingly parched lands, farmers have a new worry: Aadhaar. The state government has declared that only farmers who have a fodder ration booklet will be given subsidised fodder, a lifeline for tens of thousands of people in a region battling a crippling shortage in cattle food. But to be issued the booklet, where details of rationed fodder are entered, one needs to have the 12-digit biometric identity number that has run into a storm of criticism across the nation.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, the local veterinary doctor certifies the number of cattle each farmer owns and then farmers are given a booklet that contains these details. On producing the booklets, farmers are eligible to buy 5kg of fodder per animal per day at Rs 2 per kg at makeshift fodder banks set up across the district. But then in times such as these demand for fodder outstrips the supply. To check corruption in this supply-demand pipeline, the government has made Aadhaar authentication mandatory.
While their aim --- checking corruption --- is good, this is definitely not the right time to implement such rules. For farmers, livestock is an economic asset. By asking for Aadhaar for fodder, the government is only ruining their future. Other than being an inhuman demand, it is also illegal. The Supreme Court has repeatedly asked the government to not make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes and this order has been violated in Karnataka by making the 12-digit number necessary for subsidised fodder.