The Aadhaar Act, 2016 as it says is supposed to be for the “targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies, benefits and services.” But the ground reality tells us a different story.
Thousands of MNEREGA workers gathered at Jantar Mantar for five days from 11th September to 15th September 2017 to express their frustration over lack of wages, no ration, and poor maternity benefits.
They revealed that Anganwaadi workers had not been receiving wages for the past 6 months. They have no food to eat. How are they supposed to work in such poor conditions?
One woman expressed that the villagers haven’t been receiving ration for the past 2 and a half years. They are not even getting kerosene to cook their food. After the introduction of Aadhaar, their living conditions have gotten miserable. She said, “Aadhaar ke wajah se hume bahut dikaat ho rahi hai. Ration nahi milta, hum majdoori karne waale hai” (We have been facing a lot of problems because of Aadhaar. We who do manual labour can no longer get ration under the PDS system, to sustain our families).
Another woman said that they all have had to pay Rs. 100 each to make the Aadhaar number card which is supposed to be free of cost. They have had to pay more money to add their children’s names to the cards to avail benefits.
Tukaram Malawe from the Dalit Adivasi Jagrati Sangathan in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh said that women workers have not been able to avail maternity benefits under the Janani Suraksha Yojna after Aadhaar has been made mandatory to avail these services.
One pregnant woman worker reached the hospital at midnight in excruciating labour pain and she was asked to produce her Aadhaar card first. There was no means of commute in the night and with a lot of difficulty her husband went home to get the card.
Many women workers have been denied service in hospitals since their names are not found in the system after the introduction of Aadhaar. Infants will suffer every year because of these lack of benefits.
Tukaram ji also explained that one of the workers had entered a wrong Aadhaar number in the MNEREGA scheme and since months his wages were being sent in the account of another person. The elderly had suddenly stopped receiving their pension, since their rugged fingerprints don’t match with those stored in the system
In Madhya Pradesh, a woman was being asked to show Aadhaar number even while she was in labour pain, because government has made it mandatory for Janani Surksha Yojana, a scheme for a maternity benefit cash transfer\” Tukaram Malave said \”We were managing fine without Aadhaar, with bank passbooks, why is government forcing Aadhaar?\
The poor villagers are being exploited. Tukaram ji expressed their frustration, “Aadhaar is needed in schools for children, in hospitals, in court, to pay electricity; it it even required to use a mobile phone it seems.” In fear they have been paying Rs. 500 to get a tatkal Aadhaar made.
Most workers complained that even after linking Aadhaar to their bank accounts, their thumb impressions don’t match with those in the system and they are not able to get their wages or ration because of this.
Another major problem with the system is the fear of being “deactivated”.
Norat Mal from Tilonia, Rajasthan explained that many workers were not receiving wages while the other were. On investigating, they found out that their Aadhaar cards were deactivated, without any prior notice or reason. They had to spend a lot of money to travel far to get their Aadhaar re-activated.
How can the Government take away essential services from the poorest in the country without giving any explanation? Are we moving towards the end of democracy?
The Government has been repeatedly emphasizing on the “social benefits” of Aadhaar and its role in eradicating hunger. These testimonies are showing us the exact opposite of what the Government is claiming. And these very testimonies will show the judges of the Supreme Court, what the implications of making Aadhaar mandatory can be.
By Chandni Chawla,
Researcher, Intern with Rethink Aadhaar Campaign