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Aadhaar linkage? Rajasthan's 33 lakh, Chhattisgarh's 25 lakh families "failed to get" monthly ration in 2017

By Our Representative
The Right to Food Campaign (RtFC), quoting official data, has said that in 2017, in Rajasthan alone, around 33 lakh families were unable to access their Public Distribution System (PDS) ration entitlement each month due to the linkage of the Public Distribution System (PDS) with Aadhaar. Similarly, it said, in Jharkhand, 25 lakh families were deprived of their grain entitlements on a monthly basis.
Pointing out that even in areas like Ranchi district, where the integration had been in place for over a year, the rate of non-transacting households remains high, RtFC said in a statement, issued by its joint coordinators Dipa Sniha and Kavita Srivastava, that people’s pensions have been stopped because their Aadhaar numbers are not seeded, or cannot be seeded.
In some cases, the statement said, old people whose biometrics do not match are denied their entitlements (rations, pensions, etc.). In one village in Badauli block, Sarguja District, Chhattisgarh, 124 old people were not able to access their old age pensions as the village did not have network connectivity.
Insisting that such denials of entitlements are in fact in violation of the right to life and must be penalized, RtFC said, “The damage caused by Aadhaar is not limited to the PDS. Recipients of social security payments, such as National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) workers, social security pensioners and scholarship holders, are also suffering due to this application. Many such payments get credited in others’ accounts due to errors in Aadhaar seeding.”
Issued in the wake of the Supreme Court order dated March 13, 2018, the statement says, while it “extends the deadline for Aadhaar linking of facilities such as bank accounts and SIM cards, but permits the continued imposition of Aadhaar on social services and entitlements such as PDS, NREGA and social security pensions.”
RtFC insisted, “This order perpetuates a long-standing double standard, whereby the hardships experienced by privileged classes due to Aadhaar being made mandatory are being addressed while much greater hardships endured by poor people are ignored.”
Recalling that from September 2017 to January 2018, RtFC said, at least ten persons across three states died of starvation due to reasons directly connected with Aadhaar. These persons were denied their legal entitlements to ration/pension either because their ration card was not linked with Aadhaar or because of failures in Aadhaar-based biometric authentication.
Referring to a recent public hearing in Delhi, RtFC said, recently in Delhi, more than 400 people from different districts and marginalized communities of the national capital testified about their inability to access their legal entitlements of rations and pensions due to mandatory linking of Aadhaar.
Last year, it added, in a similar public hearing in Bengaluru, people from across Karnataka shared the various problems they were facing in accessing social security entitlements, rations as well as health services.
“Despite some token safeguards being introduced recently in some of welfare schemes in response to Aadhaar-related starvation deaths and other tragedies, in practice Aadhaar linkage and (in some cases) even Aadhaar-based biometric authentication are still compulsory for a wide range of welfare schemes and basic entitlements”, the statement said.

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