RANCHI: Renowned economist Jean Dreze on Friday criticised the mandate of having an Aadhaar number for availing of government’s welfare facilities claiming that the compulsion was disrupting several welfare schemes instead of making them more effective.
Aadhaar has been made compulsory for a growing number of welfare schemes — midday meal (MDM) is the latest in the list. The government of India has made it mandatory for children to have an Aadhaar number for availing of free lunch facility in schools.
“The real purpose of imposing Aadhaar on welfare schemes seems to be to put pressure on people to enrol,” a press communique from Dreze said.
“It is for the same reason that Aadhaar is now being made compulsory for midday meals — to accelerate the enrolment of children under Aadhaar,” the communique added.
In all, around 120 million students in the country are served food under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’s midday meal scheme, said to be the biggest such government-sponsored programme in the world.
The Centre is also working on making all ration shops Aadhaar-enabled and has made it compulsory to have an Aadhaar for availing of public distribution facilities, which is largely affecting below poverty line families across the country, say right to food activists.
The compulsion of enrolling in the Aadhaar scheme to avail of welfare facilities is also in conflict with the Supreme Court directive which said that Aadhaar was only a “voluntary facility”, highlighted Dreze.
“The Aadhaar card scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this court one way or the other,” the apex court said on September 23, 2016.
Jharkhand-based right to food activist Balram, who goes by one name, said the mandate of linking every beneficiary to Aadhaar was causing major problems in the rural areas since the state and people weren’t technologically advanced enough to use Aadhaar-based processes without hurdles.
“Many beneficiaries of welfare schemes here have been denied facilities in the absence of Aadhaar enrolment. The government is now linking schools and even health facilities to Aadhaar, which will deprive several beneficiaries of the facilities they should be ideally getting,” he said.
“We are not against technology, but it shouldn’t be forced onto people in haste,” added Balram.