In 2015, the Supreme Court reiterated that the universal identity document or Adhaar would not be mandatory to access entitlements.
This week, a series of notifications by the Centre appear to have flouted that order, by making Adhaar a requirement to access schemes ranging from the mid-day meal to scholarships for disabled students. Most notifications have a deadline of just months, causing concern among activists about implications for vulnerable children.
This push, ostensibly to ensure transparency and seamless delivery of services, has been accused of being an effort of the Centre to show 100 per cent enrollment in the scheme in this year. One can only hope that this is not the Centre’s sole motivation.
The pressure it is currently exerting on already vulnerable populations—children dependent on the one hot cooked meal a day at school, disabled students who have defied every barrier to access education—is of such dispassionate determination that one would be forced to believe that despite the Supreme Court, despite the unnecessary hurdles this will place in the way of millions, it was of the most pressing urgency, of the most sweeping significance.
Is it though? Even if one were to dismiss the accusation that the Centre simply wants to reach its own—arbitrary—target, one has to ask. Significant numbers of government schemes—state or central —tend to run behind schedule. A statistics ministry report says “an analysis of 1174 projects at the end of September 2016 shows 333 were running behind their original schedule”.
Even schemes that are running such as the mid-day meal programme have been plagued by poor implementation that has little or nothing to do with beneficiary fraud. Yet, poor families in distant villages must now ensure they jump through hoops to meet the government’s deadlines or risk their children losing a vital source of nutrition. One cannot help but wonder if the government’s priorities were not mixed up.