Aadhaar not mandatory, but people being harassed

Aadhaar not mandatory, but people being harassed

By NAVTAN KUMAR | NEW DELHI | 19 September, 2015
In 2013, the Supreme Court had maintained that no person should be prevented from availing services for not possessing the non-mandatory Aadhaar card.

Aadhaar cards are turning out to be a big harassment for people as they are being asked to get them to avail different services. This is happening despite the Supreme Court maintaining for the past two years that an Aadhaar card is not mandatory.

Complaints are pouring in from different quarters about the hardships people are facing in availing services like banking and getting LPG cylinders in the absence of Aadhaar cards as they are being sought for almost every official work. In March this year, the Delhi government issued a notification insisting that couples require Aadhaar cards to get their marriages registered under the Special Marriage Act.

What has made matters worse is that Aadhaar cards are being demanded even for the registration of newborn babies. As if that is not enough, many schools have started asking their students to get themselves registered for Aadhaar cards. Kendriya Vidyalaya had asked its students to get their Aadhaar numbers registered with the bank which collects the fees. "I got a circular from the school saying that the students need to fill up forms for Aadhaar card registration. I found this quite absurd. I checked with the school and I was told that it was being done under the instructions of the UP government," said Anil Sharma, whose child studies in a CBSE-affiliated Ghaziabad-based school.

According to Nalin Srivastava, a resident of Dwarka, he recently got an SMS from his LPG distributor asking him to submit his Aadhaar number with the LPG ID and his bank account if he wanted to avail the subsidy. "I cannot understand what this fuss is all about. Why should I get an Aadhar card if it is not mandatory?" wondered Srivastava.

Such complaints are pouring in from different quarters. For those who are willing to get their Aadhar cards made, there is another problem. "I don't know how to get it done. There are special camps for Aadhaar registration. Once I went to a camp, but since there was a long queue, I had to return. Now I have no idea," said Ankur Verma, a resident of Noida.

The Supreme Court had asked the government last month to publicise widely the fact that Aadhaar was optional and not mandatory for the citizens. The apex court had also directed the government that an Aadhaar card would not be used for any other purpose other than the public distribution scheme. This was not the first time the Supreme Court had clarified on the issue. Earlier this year, the apex court said that officials found insisting on Aadhaar cards would be taken to task.

The sorry state of affairs regarding the ambitious Aadhaar card scheme is rooted in the previous UPA government's apathy to give statutory status to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It also did not pay heed to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, which had raised serious questions over the functioning of UIDAI and also concerns expressed by its own Finance and Home Ministries.

The need for conferring statutory authority to the UIDAI was felt by the government in November 2008. However, it was deferred for over two years. The Ministry of Planning had informed the committee that all crucial matters impinging on security and confidentiality of information will be covered by relevant laws until the time Parliament passes the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill. The Bill, which has been pending in Parliament since 2010, has not been cleared.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had directed that no person should suffer for not getting the card, though some authorities had issued a circular making it mandatory. About 750 million Aadhaar numbers have been generated and about Rs 8,000 crore spent to make these cards, that too without Parliament's sanction.

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