How will a homeless get Aadhaar to avail government benefits? asks SC

Amit Anand Choudhary| T

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday raised concerns over the homeless people not getting benefits of social welfare schemes and questioned how could they get Aadhaar card made in the absence of a permanent address.
This comes at a time when the Centre is making all-out efforts to convince the court that linking of Aadhaar to various social welfare schemes was for the benefit of the people.A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Depak Gupta said that lakhs of homeless people would be deprived of getting benefits of schemes and they would continue to languish if governments insisted for Aadhaar. “It means that they are not-existent for the governments,” the bench said when it was told that permanent address was must for people to get Aadhaar.

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta sought time to take instructions from the UDAI. He, however, told the bench that many urban homeless people had permanent address in rural areas and they became homeless after shifting to cities and they could get benefits of schemes after getting Aadhaar.

The apex court passed the remarks while hearing a PIL on lack of shelter homes for urban homeless people. The court decided to constitute a committee in all states and Union Territories for supervising construction of shelter homes. It asked the Centre and the petitioner to provide a list of people could be entrusted the task to monitor construction of shelter homes in states.

As per 2011 census there are 17, 73,040 homeless people in India – 52.9 % in urban areas and 47.1% in rural areas.

A supreme Court appointed panel headed by a former Delhi high court judge projected a very grim picture for urban homeless people saying that more than 90 per cent of them had no roof over their heads as state governments have pathetically failed in setting up shelter homes. The three-member committee headed by Justice (Retired) Kailash Gambhir in its report on the state of affairs of shelter homes in different states and said that governments were not using the funds released by the Centre for construction of shelter homes and homeless people in urban centres were forced to live in roadside, railway platforms and under flyovers.

Additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, suggested the court to appoint a committee in each states under a retired high court judge to monitor the implementation of the scheme. “Considering the length and breadth of the country and the number of sanctioned shelters as of now being more than 1200, it may not be possible for a central committee to monitor the progress effectively. It is therefore prayed that the committees may be constituted in each states and UTs,” he said.

The bench said in a lighter vein that if retired judges were appointed then people would criticise court’s order and would say that it was granting post retirement benefits to judges. It, however, agreed to examine Centre’s plea to ensure better monitoring of the scheme.

NULM was launched by Centre in 2013 with a laudable objective to provide shelter to homeless people in urban areas and over the years more than Rs 2000 crore were allocated but the homeless continue to languish on streets with no roof over their head.