Rajya Sabha witnessed repeated adjournments on Thursday with the Opposition mounting an assault on the government over the Aadhaar card being made mandatory to avail benefits such as LPG subsidy, MGNREGA payments, food subsidy and some types of pensions.
The House had to be adjourned thrice after Opposition parties, including the BJD, the Trinamool Congress, the Left and the SP, took up the issue forcefully, arguing that linking of Aadhaar to direct benefit transfer (DBT) schemes was not serving the interests of the poor in the country.
The government’s assertion that it would issue a clarification to make sure those without Aadhaar were not deprived of benefits cut no ice with the Opposition. MPs repeatedly stormed the Well of the House, shouting slogans against the government and asking it not to make Aadhaar mandatory.
Soon after the House assembled, TMC member Derek O’Brien, SP’s Naresh Agarwal and BJD’s Dilip Tirkey said they had given notices under Rule 267 seeking suspension of the Question Hour but deputy chairman PJ Kurien said their motion was not allowed.
O’Brien said the BJP-led government talked about cooperative federalism but states were not consulted before the decision was taken.
Yadav said the poor would be hit hard. Tirkey said the government’s instructions would create problems for the poor, highlighting that 20% of Odisha’s population did not have Aadhaar cards.
Minister for urban development M Venkaiah Naidu said the government had taken note of the concerns raised by the members and the Aadhaar card was not compulsory to avail the benefits..
“We are passing Bills, taking part in debates…but this issue of Aadhaar card subsumes all other issues. The minister’s response is unacceptable,” O’Brien said.
“What’s wrong if the poor get the money directly into their accounts. Rajiv Gandhi had said that only 15 paisa out of Re 1 spent by the government reaches the poor. We are ensuring that the poor get Re 1 directly by weeding out the middlemen,” another minister told HT.
Naidu said the government does not normally respond to issues during Zero Hour, but in this case it had and assured the House that necessary instructions would be issued. He accused the Opposition was politicising the issue.