Activists pick holes in state’s Aadhaar ideal
Charges against Government of Jharkhand and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
The last few months have seen the cruel starvation deaths of at least four residents of Jharkhand – Santoshi Kumari, Ruplal Marandi, Premani Kunwar and Etwariya Devi. This is a direct result of the actions and inactions of the Government of Jharkhand and UIDAI.
- Clear evidence has been put forward that these deaths were due to the stopping of their legally entitled rations and old-age pensions because of Aadhaar related issues.
- Further, Government of Jharkhand repeatedly ignored evidence that the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to welfare entitlements causes exclusion of the most vulnerable citizens and denies citizens their legal rights to food and old age pensions.
- Moreover, the UIDAI has refused to take any action against those responsible for scores of violations of people’s legal entitlements to social welfare due to Aadhaar.
- Finally, this exclusion has been deceitfully projected to the public, Parliament and Supreme Court of India by dressing these cases of Aadhaar-driven exclusion as deletions of “fake persons” and “savings” of public funds.
In light of the above, the Government of Jharkhand (GoJ) and UIDAI should surely be charged for criminal negligence leading to death, and for thecriminal offence of dishonesty and an intention to deceive. Moreover, they have freely violated several legislations of the country without any consequences (Annexe 1). The attached timeline clearly lays out the pattern of negligence and dishonesty, and a lack of honouring the rights based legislations of NFSA and MGNREGA.
A Partial List of Aadhaar-related Violations of Basic Entitlements in 2017
|1||4 January 2017||Ministry of Rural Development notifies Aadhaar mandatory for MGNREGA under Aadhaar Act, i.e. all persons listed in a job card to be linked to Aadhaar.|
|2||8 February 2017||Food Ministry notifies mandatory linkage of PDS with Aadhaar, i.e. individual beneficiaries of a household in a ration card to be linked to Aadhaar.|
|3||27 March 2017||Chief Secretary GoJ, via video-conference, orders Food Supply Officers to delete ration cards not linked with Aadhaar after 5th April.|
|4||9 April 2017||Ministry of Rural Development states that 9.3 million fake job cards were deleted due to Aadhaar. In Jharkhand, 1.08 L job cards and 3.3L persons deleted.|
|5||5 May 2017||RTI reply states that out of all deleted job cards, only 12.6% were classified as ‘fake’ or ‘duplicate’ with nearly 60% deleted due to “other” reasons, which is most likely to be those who did not submit Aadhaar numbers. The same pattern is likely for Jharkhand.|
|6||22 July 2017||Ration card of Santoshi Kumari’s family (No. 202004278512) deleted for lack of Aadhaar linkage.|
|7||August 2017||Letter to BDO, Boram, East Singhbum with evidence that ICICI Bank opened approx. 6,000 bank accounts of MGNREGA workers without their knowledge in 2016. With the physical bank being 30 km away, withdrawals could only be made through the micro ATM Aadhaar Enabled Platform with Banking Correspondents.|
|8||17 August 2017||Letter to CEO, UIDAI from activists associated with Right to Food Campaign, challenging savings claim and presenting findings from survey on dire situation caused by Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) in Jharkhand.|
|9||7 September 2017||Announcement by Food Minister, GoJ that 11.64 lakh fake ration cards have been deleted to achieve 100% seeding with “savings” of Rs. 225 cores.|
|10||7 September 2017||Announcement by Minister of Women & Child Development and Social Security, GoJ that 3 lakh fake pension accounts have been deleted with “savings” of Rs. 180 crores.|
|11||28 September 2017||11-year-old Santoshi Kumari from Jaldega Block, Simdega, dies of starvation after her family was deprived of legally entitled food grains for 5 months.|
|12||23 October 2017||Ruplal Marandi from Deoghar district dies of starvation after being denied food grains for 2 months as the PoS machine did not recognize his fingerprints.|
|13||26 October 2017||More “fake” families with deleted ration cards found to be alive and legally entitled to ration, via field verification in Bishnubandh GP (Latehar).|
|14||4 November 2017||Letter to CEO, UIDAI from activists associated with Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand asking him to take action against Chief Secretary, GoJ.|
|15||19 November 2017||Evidence of MGNREGA wages in Khunti district being diverted into Airtel accounts created without the workers’ knowledge, using Aadhaar platform.|
|16||1 December 2017||Premani Kunwar (Garhwa district) dies of starvation after being simultaneously deprived of pension and food rations due to Aadhaar-related problems.|
|17||1 December 2017||Study of MGNREGA wage payments finds ‘rejected payments’, most likely due to Aadhaar-related issues, amounting to 83L in the sample payments. Field verifications reveals close to 6L payments in just one block (Manika, Latehar).|
|18||12 December 2017||Notice sent by the Khunti district administration to cardholders that names of such members will be stuck off the rationcard of the family who do not submit their UID numbers in the next 10 days.|
|19||25 December 2017||Etwariya Devi of Majhiaon block, Garhwa district dies of starvation after being denied rations for 3 months and pension for 2 months.|
A note on violations in MGNREGA, PDS and social security pensions due to Aadhaar is attached. The evidence and annexures related to the chargesheet can be downloaded from this link.
Ranchi: Economist-activist Jean Drèze and other activists on Monday accused state and central governments and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) of excluding many genuine claimants from rations, pensions and MGNREGS jobs while chasing imaginary Aadhaar targets.
Drèze apart, the news meet at XISS in Ranchi was addressed by Asarfi Nand Prasad and Dheeraj Kumar of Right to Food Campaign (Jharkhand unit) and Stan Swamy of NGO Bagaicha.
Though the state government promised no one would be deprived of social benefits, it often issued orders to the contrary, activists alleged.
They alleged MGNREGS job cards, ration cards and pensions of a large number of Jharkhand residents were scrapped to meet “100 per cent Aadhaar seeding targets”.
They alleged mass cancellation of these welfare scheme cards led to hunger deaths in Jharkhand but the UIDAI did not take action against those responsible for violations.
Last year, chief secretary Rajbala Verma allegedly ordered scrapping of ration cards not seeded to Aadhaar. However, the activists did not name anyone on Monday.
Drèze said even those with Aadhaar-seeded welfare cards faced problems if they failed to complete their biometric identification due to poor internet connectivity or power cuts.
“Aadhaar should never be made compulsory for distribution of welfare benefits but may be used as an alternative and voluntary means for identification,” he said.
Prasad said their probe revealed “a disturbing pattern”.
Job, ration and pension cards not linked to Aadhaar were cancelled in the first step, then those card holders declared fake or bogus, Prasad alleged. The money saved due to these actions were shown as “savings” due to Aadhaar transparency, though no exact break-up of the savings were ever made public (by the government or UIDAI), he explained. “Even the Union government claimed in April 2017 that nearly one crore fake job cards were cancelled but later in response to an RTI application said only 12.6 per cent of the cancelled cards were fake or duplicate,” he added.
“Though the state government says genuine (job and ration) cards will be restored, it will be time-taking process as card-seekers have to repeat the entire application procedure,” Dheeraj Kumar added.
He added the payment procedure for jobs under MGNREGS was often irregular.
“Recently, a man from Khunti didn’t get his wages as the money was deposited to some private bank account opened in his name without his knowledge instead of the existing account that was specified,” he said.
“Good governance means pro-people activities on the part of the government. But here, poor people are being made to suffer for no fault of their own,” added Stan Swamy.