The Supreme Court verdict on Aadhaar will have different impact for different folks, a relief for those who no longer have to link their cards to their bank accounts and mobiles but tying millions dependent on subsidies to the biometric id, say activists and others. The apex court Wednesday declared the Aadhaar scheme constitutionally valid, striking down some of its provisions, including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions. Some like Bipasha Mukherjee, 21, whose mobile stopped working for 72 hours last month, welcomed the judgement. Following a visit to the telecom company’s customer care centre, she was told the connection was disrupted because the “sim was not linked to her Aadhaar card”.
“I was completely cut off for three days without any explanation from the telecom company,” she said. However, Bipasha’s relief did not trickle down to Gauri Devi, who works as a household help in Dwarka and needs the Aadhaar to avail facilities of welfare schemes and government subsidies. In fact, Gauri said, it further polarises the haves and the have-nots. She told PTI that she and her two sons applied for Aadhaar, but only her younger son received the document. While the younger son could get admission to the Vidya Bharti School in North West Delhi, life became tougher for her. Collecting rations and accessing subsidised health services for her family was “impossible” without the card.
“Nothing happens without Aadhaar. To avail each subsidy, be it for food or health services, we are supposed to have the card. I did not get my Aadhaar even after registering myself…we are being deprived for no fault of ours,” she said. According to farmer leader and activist Vijoo Krishnan, food security, particularly among the poor, has been “worst hit” by the judgement. According to data revealed earlier this year by the Right To Food (RTF) campaign, an advocacy group, 14 people allegedly starved to death in Jharkhand over 10 months after being denied rations because they didn’t have Aadhaar cards.
“Denial of ration/food grains have been reported widely over UID issues including problems of biometric… The starvation deaths in Jharkhand, massive malnutrition and related deaths of children in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and tribal areas are pointers to the danger that lies in such a judgement,” the Delhi-based activist said. According to human rights organisation Amnesty India, “making an Aadhaar card a prerequisite to access essential services and benefits can obstruct access to several constitutional rights, including the rights of people to food, health care, education and social security”. Right to food activist Dipa Sinha added that they were expecting that welfare schemes would be delinked from Aaadhar too.
“So, in that way the judgment is quite disappointing,” she said. Not everyone agreed with her. Charles Assisi, who has co-authored an upcoming book titled, “The Aadhaar Effect: Why the World’s Largest Identity Project Matters”, said the verdict was, “very balanced” and that the country was “headed in the right direction”. According to him, the scheme, in fact, benefits people at the bottom of the totem pole the most.
“One of the things we figured out is that the poorest of the country, that run into a few hundred million people, have absolutely no form of identity. You have to provide them with that so they can claim their rightful dues,” Assisi told PTI. “It brings them into the formal economy,” he said. Social media, too, was abuzz with mixed reactions. While many took to Twitter to express their relief over freedom from “harassment” at the hands of banks and telecom companies, others used the social networking site to voice their disappointment.
A Jaiveer Shergill on Twitter “withdrew” his consent to share his data, and asked telecom companies and banks to “delete” the information they might have about him. “Dear Mobile Phone Operators & Banks-You harassed us & forced us to link #Aadhaar to your system-After #SupremeCourt Judgment -Kindly delete the data collected otherwise u shall b considered in possession of stolen property as I withdraw my consent to use my info #AadhaarVerdict,” he tweeted. Many noted that the verdict “has hurt welfare”, adding that there was need and possibility of a review petition.
“Some imp. modifications to #Aadhaar sought by majority judgment..But it is overall a disappointment as it doesn’t consider large failures reported by welfare beneficiaries & that mandation of #UID has hurt welfare. JYC’s strong dissent opens up possibility of a review petition,” Srinivasan Ramani tweeted, referring to Justice D Y Chandrachud’s dissenting judgement. Another tweeter Sunit Arora wrote the constitutional validation of Adhaar will result in great suffering for the poor.
“Very disappointing #Aadhaar verdict. Constitutional validity sets the stage for a (future) fascist state. The abject poor will suffer the most. “A future government will HAVE to challenge this,” Arora wrote.