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Archives for : Social Security

Public hearing on Killer Aadhaar -the Denial of Social Security



“The ration shop owner knows me very well but the bio metric machine does not identify my finger prints, so I have not been getting ration food for the past two years’


  • Padma, a brave woman who lives on the streets of bangalore


Like Padma, there were people from twenty districts who presented heart wrenching evidence of Aadhar related denials in the public hearing organised by the Right to Food Campaign in Bangalore today. Experiences of denial from across the state clearly show that the failures are not just a glitch or a rare aberration but that systemic exclusion is inherent to the Aadhaar system. Aadhar is hollowing out democracy where people have rights that they cannot exercise. The right to food, for example, is being rendered useless as machines are taking over the decision making process on who gets the monthly ration and who does not. In this dystopic society, Aadhaar has become a tool in the hands of the state to exclude people in millions from accessing even basic entitlements and services.

Despite repeated Court orders, Aadhaar has been linked to every aspect of people’s lives from school admissions, scholarships, insurance policies, to open Bank Account, PF, LPG, to even monthly rations, TB and HIV drugs, disaster relief and death certificates. While this forced submission of people into parting their private data can be challenged using the recent SC judgment, the brazen use of Aadhaar to systemically deny the masses of their basic entitlements is a matter that is yet to be accepted by the same courts, reminding us of the class bias of the legal system in India.

In a historic public hearing process today, people from twenty districts of Karnataka shared their life of denial, struggle and hopelessness in front of a honorable group of jury who have given the following judgement:

Sukanya, a tailor from Channapattana in Karnataka, was denied ration because she had not linked her ration card to Aadhaar. As someone who does not take things lying down, Sukanya requested the ration shop owner and the tehsildar, only to be told by both officials that she should link her ration card to Aadhaar card “because everyone was doing so”.

A defiant Sukanya went to court in February this year. The Karnataka High Court then passed an interim order that directed the Food and Civil Supplies department to not insist on an Aadhaar card link and provide subsidised foodgrain to Sukanya.

Lalithamma, a resident of Begur village in Chikmagalur district, was denied ration, along with fifty other people as they had not linked her ration card to Aadhaar card. When Lalithamma along with others from Begur made the trip to Tarikere taluk to ask authorities about this, they were told that they should link their ration card to Aadhaar cards. “It costs 100 rupees to make the journey to Tarikere taluk. In the last four kilometres, there are no buses and we have to walk,” she said.

Chowdappa, from Chintamani in Chikballapur district, was denied ration along with 15 people from the village, because they had not linked their ration card to Aadhaar card.

Jyoti, a resident of Belagavi, said that  her children were denied scholarship and even though they applied for Aadhaar card four times, they were rejected.

Padma, a resident of Bengaluru was also denied ration because the bio metric machine did not identify her fingerprints. “The ration shop owner knows me very well but the bio metric machine does not identify my finger prints, so I have not been getting ration food for the past two years,” she said.

Bharati, Secretary of the Karnataka Sex Workers Union, said that when police arrest sex workers they demand Aadhaar card and if they do not produce it, then it results in further harassment.

Like Sukanya, Lalithamma, Chowdappa, Jyoti, Padma and Bharati, over twenty people from various districts of Karnataka shared their stories of struggle and helplessness, at a public hearing organised by The Right to Food campaign in Bengaluru.

Though the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to not insist on linking ration card to Aadhaar, after the centre’s directive in February, the testaments from various people show that ration shops continued to deny them essentials.


Members of Jury

Usha Ramanathan

Here is the talk by Usha Ramanathan after peoples hearing on aadhaar & denial of Social Security

Clifton Rozario

Raghu KC

Dr. Sylvia Karpagam


Recommendations of the Jury

  1. The state government should recognize the vulnerability it is causing to its people when it coerces Aadhar on them. It should respect and follow the directives of the Supreme court against making Aadhar mandatory.
  2. Failures of the biometric system should be recognized and its use stopped forthwith.
  3. The State government should investigate the vulnerabilities caused to the people of the state and take appropriate action.
  4. The State government should immediately investigate and take action with regard to the deaths of the three men in Gokarna which has been linked to Aadhar. The reports and actions and corrective measures should be made public.
  5. The government of Karnataka should delink aadhaar to any essential services.
  6. The serious issue of malnutrition, stunting, wasting is a shame. To strengthen the public delivery system and make it Universal. No citizen of the state should be denied access to nutrition in the PDS, ICDS, mid-day meal or any other government sponsored nutrition program based on Aadhar. The Right to food should be upheld by the State as an inviolable right.
  7. To strengthen the healthcare system and invest in the public health system to make it universal access to comprehensive health care and this should include the promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative aspects. No person should be denied health care and any of the health entitlements based on Aadhar.
  8. To strengthen the public education system and make it Universal. No child should be denied education and Aadhar should not be an obstacle.
  9. The judgement of the Supreme court on the right to privacy requires a complete overhaul of the Aadhar system.  Matters of dignity, confidentiality, stigma and liberty have all been categorically recognized as fundamental rights as the people of the country. The Aadhar project will have to be subjected to strict scrutiny on the basis of this judgement.



Jury Observation:


After hearing the testimonies of the citizens of the State in the context of aadhaar, the jury members would like to make the following preliminary observations.

  1. Aadhar has emerged as a barrier for people to access entitlements as basic as food. The problems are at all stages; many are unable to enroll, many others are unable to authenticate themselves because of biometric failure, many others are unable to link taheir Aadhar with their PDS.
  2. This coercive use of Aadhar is completely contrary to what the Supreme court has said in multiple orders starting from 23/9/2013 and including orders that came in September 2016. The Aadhar Act passed by the Lok Sabha in March 2016 does not allow the denial of any entitlements to any person but this only observed in the breach. The government’s, both  Central and State, are ignoring both the orders of the court and the Aadhar Act 2016 and denying people their rations unless the biometric works.
  3. By now, reports have begun to emerge of deaths due to starvation because of their Aadhar numbers have not been linked to the PDS. This has resulted in large scale deprivation around the country. In Jharkhand for instance, while a 11 year old has died of starvation after family not having received rations for over 8 months, it has also come to light that 11.5 lakh ration cards have been cancelled on this spurious basis. The recent deaths in Gokarna are evident in the State.
  4. The targeted PDS system is highly discriminatory and leads to exclusion of the most vulnerable citizens such as daily wage labourers, people with disability, single women, widows, orphans etc. If the state government is serious and committed to meeting the needs of all its citizens, then the PDS has to be universal and equally available to all citizens
  5. The number of cases of malnutrition, stunting, wasting, undernutrition, anemia in the State and the devastating consequences for the most marginalized communities (eg. the starvation deaths in Gokarna) are a shocking indictment of the state. The state is absolutely mandated to ensure this crisis is addressed
  6. In the backdrop of this inadequate PDS, it is shocking that people are further denied  these meagre rations, because of Aadhar. Apart from humiliating people and denying basic rights, the Aadhar serves no useful person and infact removes even the idea of citizenship. It violates the Right to Food as a fundamental right as repeatedly reaffirmed by the Supreme court.
  7. The current public distribution System (PDS) is inadequate to provide the basic nutritional needs of the community. The scheme that provides rice, wheat, sugar under the current scheme in Karnataka is able to provide only around 633 Kcal/day for each member of a 5 member family. This is much less than the recommended average of 2200 Kcal per day per person. This is completely inadequate to meet needs. The needs of protein, vitamins and minerals can only be met through eating of other foods like fruits, vegetables, greens, eggs, meat, groundnuts etc. The state government, through the State Food Commission, should immediately recommend a revision of the quality and quantity of foods provided and ensure that other sources of nutritional need are met
  8. The Aadhaar card at no point is mandatory, but state governments are openly violating Supreme court orders. This is clear contempt of court and violates Constitutional rights of every individual citizen.
  9. The Aadhaar card further has been made mandatory for accessing health care. Again the health care system that is currently being provided by the State is inadequate and inaccessible. The rampant growth of the private sector has made healthcare unaffordable. In that backdrop it is shocking that instead of making all efforts to strengthen the public healthcare system, the government is investing more time and energy in pushing Aadhar cards for each and evey service. Patients have been denied services for antenatal care, delivery, HIV treatment, tuberculosis treatment, Ultrasound, death certificates, ambulance facilities, etc.  If the state is commited to providing universal access to comprehensive healthcare, then the Aadhar is a barrier to this. The Aadhar only prevents access and in no way facilitates improved health access for the citizens of the state
  10. Children, particularly those from most vulnerable communities, are being denied access to education, scholarship and hostel facilities. This is a violation of the Right to Education.
  11. Based on the numerous evidence presented before the jury, it is clear that the biometric system is flawed and is being used to violate people’s rights on a day to day basis. It serves no purpose and in fact seems to be intended to deny people basic rights of food, education and healthcare.
  12. Based on the responses of the officials from the Commissions who are responsible for overseeing and protecting the rights of minority communities, SC/ST Communities, people with disabilities and women, it is evident that this public hearing was an ‘eye opener’ for them. It gives an idea of how little the State government is aware of the day to day issues and violations faced by the communities and the fact that decisions such as introducing the Aadhar have not been consultative and are completely coercive in nature.

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#India – After 67 years of #Independence- ‘ YEH KAISI AZADI HAI”

At the stroke of midnight when the world sleeps, India awakes,

Yes! India has woken up to freedom, but for whom?

After 67  years of Independence, The poor have no kapda, roti, makaan so let them have cell phones. The UPA government is close to finalising a Rs 7,000 crore scheme to provide one mobile phone for every Below Poverty Line (BPL) household in the country. The scheme will be called ‘Har haath mein phone” (phone in every hand) and would give 200 minutes of free local talktime to the beneficiaries.

The Planning Commission SAYS  that anyone spending more than Rs 965 per month in urban India and Rs 781 in rural India will be deemed not to be poor. The  poverty line cut-off figures, are those spending in excess of Rs 32 a day in urban areas or Rs 26 a day in villages will no longer be eligible to draw benefits of central and state government welfare schemes meant for those living below the poverty line. For them  spending Rs 5.5 on cereals per day is good enough to keep people healthy. Similarly, a daily spend of Rs 1.02 on pulses, Rs 2.33 on milk and Rs 1.55 on edible oil should be enough to provide adequate nutrition and keep people above the poverty line without the need of subsidized rations from the government. Just  Rs 1.95 on vegetables a day would be adequate. A bit more, and one might end up outside the social security net.

People should be spending less than 44 paise on fruits, 70 paise on sugar, 78 paise on salt and spices and another Rs 1.51 on other foods per day to qualify for the BPL list and for subsidy under various government schemes. A person using more than Rs 3.75 per day on fuel to run the kitchen is doing well as per these figures. Forget about the fuel price hike and sky-rocketing rents, if anyone living in the city is spending over Rs 49.10 a month on rent and conveyance, he or she could miss out on the BPL tag.

As for healthcare,  Rs 39.70 per month is sufficient to stay healthy. On education, the plan panel feels those spending 99 paise a day or Rs 29.60 a month in cities are doing well enough not to need any help. Similarly, one could be considered not poor if he or she spends more than Rs 61.30 a month on clothing, Rs 9.6 on footwear and another Rs 28.80 on other personal items.

But THE FACT IS , around 400 million unorganised workers struggle to survive without any tangible right, though they substantially contribute to the national income. No employment regulation, no pension, no maternity benefits, no accident compensation, no provision to get even the minimum wages or health care. Instead, crumbs of social assistance schemes are thrown at them by the state as charity.

“Independence begins at the bottom . . . A society must be built where every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its own affairs . . . It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without . . . This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces. In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever-widening, never-ascending circles. Growth will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom, but it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual. Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle, but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.”

Mahatma Gandhi believed that the overall impact of the state on the people is harmful. He called the state a “soulless machine” which, ultimately, does the greatest harm to mankind. It was for this that he developed the two-pronged strategy of resistance (to the state) and reconstruction (through voluntary and participatory social action). The dream of Swaraj remains unattained even 65 years after independence.

Ye Kaisi Aazadi Hai? asks Jagjit Singh, the acclaimed singer, joining the campaigners of Social Security Now, a network of trade unions, civil society organisations, peoples movements and concerned individuals fighting for securing Social Security Rights for the countless, voiceless unorganised workers. Written by renowned poet Nida Fazli, and filmed by Pravin Mishra, the song invites you to join in on the demand for Social Security as a Right for unorganised workers! The video  vividly articulates the frustrations of millions of marginalized Indians who find their dream of Swaraj slipping away. India’s tryst with destiny has now turned into India’s tryst with Nehru dynasty. India’s hope for Swaraj is sailing through rough waters.

This is your song. Please send the link to all the concerned Indians.

Freedom of Expression

The lyrics
यह कैसी आजादी है

चंद घराने छोड़ के भूखी नंगी आबादी है

जितना देस तुम्हारा है
उतना देस हमारा है
दलित, महिला, आदिवासी , सबने इसे सवांरा है

ऐसा क्यों है कहीं ख़ुशी है
और कहीं बर्बादी है

यह कैसी आजादी है….

अंधियारों से बहार निकलो
अपनी शक्ति जानो तुम
दया धरम की भीख न मांगो
हक्क अपना पहचानो तुम
अन्याय के आगे जो रुक जाये वह अपराधी है

यह कैसी आजादी है….

जिन हाथों में काम नहीं है
उन हाथों को काम भी दो
मजदूरी करने वालों को , मजदूरी का दाम भी दो
बूढ़े होते हाथों पों कप, जीने का आराम भी दो

दौलत का हर बंटवारे में, मेहनतकश का नाम भी दो
झूठों के दरबार में, अब तक सचाई फरयादी है

यह कैसी आजादी है
चंद घराने छोड़ के भूखी नंगी आबादी है

Translation in English

What sort of freedom is this ?
Besides handful of people, the whole nation is poor and starving

The nation belongs to me as much as it belongs to you
Dalits, women, tribal, all together have built the nation
Why is that, somewhere there is happiness
and elsewhere there is darkness

What sort of freedom is this ?

Get out of the darkness and realize your power
Do not ask for mercy, Recognize you own rights
Whoever stops in front of injustice is a criminal
What sort of freedom is this ?

The hands which do not work, need employment
Pay the laborers fair wages
Give social security to the elderly
Give full due contribution to laborers in distribution of wealth,
Truth is still begging for justice , in the court of liars

What sort of freedom is this ?
Besides handful of people, the whole nation is poor and starving


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America: Where It’s Easier to Get a Gun Than Good Mental Health Care

Gun violence is up. Access to good mental healthcare is down. What, exactly, are our priorities?

June 10, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

Last spring my younger sister Kathy jumped off a freeway bridge in Phoenix. For better or worse, she lived. Kathy made her first suicide gesture in high school, when she took a handful of, I think, aspirin in reaction to a bad haircut. At the time, she was already, obviously, mentally ill. In middle school, anorexia had drawn her down to a skeletal 38 pounds. Her hair fell out. Her sunken face took on a plastic texture from fat-soluble vitamins that her body couldn’t process. Force-feeding brought her back from the brink, but couldn’t heal her. In the years since, even during three pregnancies, she has never topped 100 pounds, nor has she ever been free of compulsions, body-loathing or debilitating bouts of depression.

Since that first handful of analgesics, Kathy has made an effort to die somewhere between 12 and 15 times: prescription pills, threatened jumps from an apartment balcony and a communications tower, an attempt at drowning, a car set on fire. Kathy is alive because even in the heart of Arizona’s Wild West no one will sell her a gun; a fact she finds immensely frustrating at times that her bipolar illness takes her into another trough of despair.

For three days, Seattle has been reeling, grieving a wave of senseless violence that left five dead, including a shooter who was, from his family’s description, bipolar like my sister. Mentally ill women are most likely to exit this world alone or try to take their children with them. Some men prefer to go out in a blaze of rage and blood. Either way, access to a gun makes the impulse more lethal. Firearms are two and a half times more effective than the next method of suicide, suffocation. According to Centers for Disease Control statistics for 2003-2007, gunshots represented only 3 percent of suicide attempts, but almost half of fatalities. So far this year, over 40,000 people in the U.S. have been shot. By December 31, we can expect to bury about 9,500, each dead at the hands of someone pulling a trigger. Guns were designed to be effective, efficient killing machines, and they work very well.

When someone kills – we ask why? It’s a worthy question. A part of the answer that haunts me (because it seems so preventable) is the way we choose as a society to prioritize our resources. We build for-profit prisons across the country, with lock-up room for minor drug offenders. But while prisons are growing, prevention and treatment services are disappearing.

As a psychologist, I used to have an outpatient mental health practice in Seattle. By the time I quit, it was almost impossible to get public mental health services for a person who hadn’t been diagnosed with a chronic mental illness or acute intent to harm. I told one desperate and suicidal young woman with no health insurance that she could get inpatient treatment if she was willing to go in front of a judge and swear that she intended to hurt herself or someone else. She disappeared, and I didn’t know for weeks if she was still alive. Relentless cuts in funding and services over the last 20 years mean that psychiatrists, psychologists and caseworkers are under constant pressure to pretend someone is more intact than they actually are.

The state of Arizona spent close to a million dollars last year putting Kathy back together after she fell 49 feet. By contrast, they spent a pittance, a few thousand on follow-up mental health assessment and treatment. Kathy’s car-on-fire incident was triggered by her SSI and Medicare being cut off because she had earned a couple hundred extra dollars working at Target over the holidays. Desperate to cut costs, the Social Security administrators decided that she wasn’t actually disabled–this is despite the fact that she has repeatedly ended up in restraints at state and county hospitals.

But even the best mental health treatment in the world won’t prevent some people from just losing it. There are going to be people who want to die. There are going to be people who want to kill. Most of the time the impulse passes. Whether someone dies before it does depends largely on the tools at hand.

I once traveled with a handful of young adventurers and a couple of fishermen in an open skiff from southern Belize to Honduras. In the middle of the night, we stopped on a small offshore island for hot drinks. There we were greeted by a wiry black man in his 60s. A deep scar ran across his face, from cheekbone to chin. Another deformed one arm. He was missing digits. He told us that as a young man he had been attacked with a machete.

I was fascinated and horrified by his graphic story, and one thought embedded itself permanently in my mind: It takes a lot of effort to kill someone with a machete. But with a gun, it takes very little.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at


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