India’s first Aadhaar-holder Ranjana Sonawane (40) is angry. Her family couldn’t go to work over the past month because the state government kept them busy preparing for Wednesday’s launch ceremony.
The Tembhli village resident was handed over her Aadhaar — 78247431788 — at a ceremony attended by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Sanmaanache kaay gheun basat, ithe khayaala kahi nahi. (Damn the honour, we don’t have anything to eat.),” she said after the ceremony.
Sweeping the mud floor of her 150 sq ft dilapidated grass-and-bamboo hut, Ranjana was visibly upset. “Now I have to cook something for my three children,” she said, walking to an earthen choolah (stove).
Ranjana, who’s studied up to Class IV, her illiterate husband Sadashiv and her children Umesh (11), Hitesh (6) and toddler Mangesh share this space.
“I don’t understand why the officers kept us busy all month. They demanded a new document every day. We couldn’t go to work because of their visits.”
The couple survives on daily wages earned on a farm.
“I was so nervous that I couldn’t utter a word when I saw Gandhi,” she said. If she had gathered the courage, she said, she would have told Gandhi to give us “a decent life”. “Hunger keeps my children awake every other night,” she said. Across Tembhli, a village in backward Nandurbar district, people wondered how Aadhaar would change their lives. Most adults migrate to Saurashtra for seasonal jobs.
“Our husbands and sons earn some money by cutting sugarcane in Saurashtra. But this time, they couldn’t go because of this programme. Government officers asked them to stay back,” said Sayarbee Yakub (40).
Many villagers sat in groups near a shamiana. Most were indifferent to what was going on.
Bhuribai Mali (20), a daily wage farm labourer, said: “Soniaji said the card would give me identification and improve our lives. But nobody explained how it would do all these things.”
Anil Thakre (12), a Class 6 student, said he looked forward to opening a bank account now that he has an Aadhaar.