On the third day of the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha hundreds of MNREGA rural workers gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi spoke of the varied problems they are facing due to Aadhaar, a biometrics linked ID, being made mandatory to continue getting essential services.

Tukaram from the Jagrat Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh said that in their village, pregnant women faced enormous problems at the time of delivery. “To call the ambulance by calling 108, we are being to show proof of Aadhaar numbers. A woman worker’s delivery was delayed because she forgot to carry her Aadhaar card to the hospital.”

Tukaram went on to state that the linking of Aadhaar to hospitals, schools, food rations is creating enormous inconvenience and harassment. “We have to go multiple times and make payments repeatedely – first, we spend hundreds of rupees to make the card as operators ask for money, and then workers have to go and link it,” He said “Aadhaar is mandatory for everything. On death also, Aadhaar is needed.  To go to court also, Aadhaar is needed in our district,” he said.

Pushpa a resident of Delhi said, “In Delhi, Aadhar is killing people. There is no space where Aadhaar is not creating a hassle, be it ration shops, our pensions, or hospitals. They want Aadhaar and won’t help or assist people without it.”

From Uttar Pradesh, workers stated that they received MNREGA wages for a few months which then stopped. When they checked,  they found out the MNREGA MIS stated that their Aadhaar  had become “inactive”. Under Aadhaar Act, the regulations state  the government can “deactivate any resident’s Aadhaar for “any reason deemed appropriate” without giving any prior notice. The problems that are resulting from this are now surfacing in huge numbers in rural areas.

“We asked what inactive meant but no one was able to tell us,” said one worker. “Nobody was told why they were made inactive.”

Vikas Ojha from Uttar Pradesh explained that the Aadhaar database demographic details are full of errors, and Aadhaar centres take an excessive bribes  for updating of information.

Norat Mal from Tilonia, Ajmer stated that several MNREGA workers have stopped receiving wages because the MIS shows that Aadhaar is “inactive”. They did not get any prior notice before deactivation, forty workers in his village were unable to get wages after deactivation.

Daaku Devi from Jawaja, Ajmer stated that elderly’s fingerprints are not recognised by Aadhaar enabled machines and that several residents are now unable to get pension because of this.

Indira from Rajsamand, Rajasthan stated that fingerprints change and POS machines used to disburse rations are not able to recognise the elderly.

Hundreds of workers gathered said “Aadhaar nahin, sudhaar chahiye!” “We don’t want Aadhaar, we want genuine reform.”