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Welcome relief. By ruling that the Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory for accessing public services and subsidies, the Supreme Court has provided...

By ruling that the Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory for accessing public services and subsidies, the Supreme Court has provided big relief to citizens. The apex court bench, consisting of Justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde, which gave its ruling on Monday, is absolutely right in saying that the card can be issued only to genuine citizens and not to illegal immigrants, but probably it was not told that even genuine citizens have been complaining for months that, despite their herculean efforts, they have not been able to obtain an Aadhaar card. Every newspaper in the country any day has been carrying at least a few letters from readers about how, in spite of their having gone round the offices concerned for months, they could not obtain a card.

Of course, “Aadhaar” literally means “basis”, but nothing is more fatuous than that an Aadhaar card should be made the basis of life. But that is precisely the state of affairs in the country. For instance, in States like Delhi even marriage registrations are now dependent on the Aadhaar card! Whoever said marriages were made in heaven? In other States, cash and subsidies are transferred directly into the bank account only of those who have an Aadhaar card.

That means those poor people (their name is legions!) who, despite best efforts, could not obtain the card are deprived of benefits primarily meant for them. The intentions behind the launch of the scheme may have been noble; to reach out to the poorest of the poor; but its implementation has been singularly unimaginative. For instance, several irregularities in it have off and on been revealed in public discourse but the Government does not appear to have taken any remedial measures. Otherwise, one would not hear so many complaints against it from those very people for whom the scheme had been launched.
For instance, whatever could be the link imaginable between cooking gas and an Aadhaar card? Apparently none. Yet gas cylinders are supplied at subsidized rates only to those who possess an Aadhaar card. Has it ever occurred to the Government that many of those who enjoy buying the gas cylinder at subsidized rates may not exactly be those deserving of the consideration? Or that at least a few of them may be selling them at market rates to make a profit because of the acute demand and ever-soaring price of the gas cylinder in the open market?
If either ever did, why has the Government not taken steps to set matters right? Again, the Union Home Ministry insists, or insisted until the Monday’s ruling by the apex court, that the ID number must be issued through the National Population Register drive and not from the Nilekani-led Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) . Then why was the UIDAI set up in the first instance so long ago, incurring on its labours plenty of money and manpower? It should be the job of the authorities to find out if an applicant for the card is a bona fide Indian or an illegal immigrant.
Leaving that for the applicant to prove is like asking an accused to prove his/her innocence instead of the prosecution proving his/her guilt. Given the condition of a majority of Indians, how many of them can prove their nationality with a passport or similar other documents, even though many underworld dons have been shown over years to have more passports than one? Of course, the benefit of the Aadhaar card should be extended exclusively to genuine citizens of India, but how many of them have been covered by the scheme so far? Where is the answer?
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