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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Govt to look into issues of Aadhaar being made mandatory for select schemes

The Centre is examining various questions raised by Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a legal services organisation, with regard to violation of the Supreme Court’s order against making Aadhaar mandatory for access to certain services, sources close to the development, told Business Line.

According to sources, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, has recently responded to a letter by Rajya Sabha MP, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, saying he was ‘getting the matter examined’.

Chandrasekhar, in his letter to Prasad in December, had asked the government to state the ‘correct position under law’ on the issue of Aadhaar being made mandatory by various government and private entities with regard to their schemes, which, he said was a violation of the apex court’s orders.

Chandrasekhar had also raised question in the Rajya Sabha in November, after which SFLC had written in detail to Chandrashekar, listing out about 120 violations between September 2015 and September 2016, based on which the MP had written a letter to Prasad, who incidentally is also the Law & Justice Minister.

Exempted schemes

The Aadhaar scheme is instituted and operated by the Unique Authority of India (UIDAI) and in 2015, the Supreme Court had restricted the voluntary use of Aadhaar to six government schemes — the public distribution system (PDS), LPG, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojna and National Social Assistance Programme (old age and widow pension). The court had clearly emphasised that no person should be denied any service for lack of an Aadhaar card or number.

However, many schemes are being run wherein Aadhaar has been made mandatory to avail of the services.
  • Citing SFLC’s list, Chandrasekhar highlighted some of the schemes wherein Aadhaar has been made mandatory.
  • “For instance, he has mentioned government considering EPFO’s voluntary pension scheme linked with Aadhaar, Linking BPL ration cards with Aadhaar made mandatory for PDS in Bengaluru, Paytm starting Aadhaar-based KYC process, government saying households not to get LPG subsidy without Aadhaar,” said a government official.
  • 111 crore cards issued
  • Meanwhile, the government is enrolling Aadhaar numbers to the maximum number of people, including children, asking the authority to enrol as many people as possible at the earliest.
  • As of Wednesday, 111 crore Aadhaar cards have already been generated, according to the UIDAI website.
  • Recently, Prasad had also said that the more people are enrolled with Aadhaar, the maximum number of benefits they would get. He had also said that the government was now going to introduce a new Aadhaar-based digital payment system for the common man.
  • But, several citizen groups have pointed out that the mandatory use of Aadhaar in social welfare schemes was leading to exclusion and harassment of the poor, and was in violation of Supreme Court’s six orders in three years.
  • The citizens groups also pointed out that the Aadhaar Act 2016, ‘nowhere authorises the seeding of the Aadhaar number in any database. “The 2016 Act clearly speaks only of ‘authentication’, viz., asking the UIDAI database to verify that we are who we say we are. So, asking anyone to put the number in any other database (the LPG database, for example, is unsupported by the law),” they said.