53,000 people in Uttarakhand lose pension for the lack of Aadhaar card, said a report by The Times of India. According to documents accessed by the publication, out of 59,081 people who draw disability pension in Uttarakhand, 5,424 have not got a single penny of pension since October 2016. Out of 4.2 lakh old-age pension beneficiaries, 36,060 pensioners have not received their pension owing to the lack of Aadhaar card. Same holds true for 12,047 of the 1.48 lakh widows eligible for a pension haven’t received their pension yet.
The suffering of those denied pension
Neero Devi, a mother of a 30-year-old 60% disabled son, Raj Kumar, lives in Rajawala village, 20 kilometers away from the Dehradun city, capital of Uttarakhand. She lays down two crisp 500 rupee notes on the floor of her one-room house and says, this is what she has to last her the entire month. The 62-year-old widow’s son has been rendered immobile due to his disability, unable to speak or move. She says, “We were heavily dependant on the monthly disability pension which we get for my son from the government. It has stopped since last year in October since he doesn’t have an Aadhaar Card.”
Neero Devi further added that they have tried several times to get an Aadhaar card for his son but the machine, unfortunately, could not read his fingerprints and scan his iris. She showed the copy of a letter from the social welfare department that said Kumar’s pension had been stopped since his Aadhaar number had not been submitted. She asks, “How many times can I carry around my son and take him to an Aadhaar center? Sometimes he gets scared and becomes violent when they try to take his photo. I don’t want to put him through that again and again.”
What do the officials say?
A senior social welfare department official said the pensions were stopped following a state government notice dated on 25 June 2016 which read, “Government of India is making it mandatory to link Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts of each beneficiary. It is anticipated from all of you that within 15 days all the Aadhaar details and mobile number of each beneficiary will be linked with the pension software. If Aadhaar seeding of any pensioner is not done, it will not be possible to give pension to such beneficiaries.”
The notice was given out to the director as well as all the 13 district social welfare officers. A copy of the notice, signed by former secretary of social welfare department is with The Times of India. When told that the Supreme Court has not mandated Aadhaar linking for social welfare schemes, the official from the welfare department retorted, “But the SC didn’t say, ‘Don’t link (welfare schemes) with Aadhaar number.’ “
Officials have reiterated that they were “helpless”. Anurag Shankhdhar, district social welfare official (Dehradun), said, “A proposal was floated to visit severely disabled and old people at home to collect their biometrics, but we are yet to receive machines for the exercise from the government.” Director of the social welfare department Major Yogendra Yadav, however, said one of the reasons that so many beneficiaries had not submitted their Aadhaar details could be that they never existed in the first place or were ineligible for a pension. Yadav told The Times of India, “We have sent out communication to all our beneficiaries to get their Aadhaar cards linked with bank accounts so we can resume their pensions. We have launched a toll-free number to help out people. But some are neither connecting with the social welfare department nor are reaching out to the UIDAI.”
The Logical Indian Take
The Logical Indian is perturbed at the humongous number of people who are facing the brunt of making the Aadhaar mandatory. Here only one story of helpless Neero Devi and her son has been recounted but the baffling statistics reveal that there are hundreds and thousands of Neero Devis across the entire state and the country who are struggling to fetch two square meals a day due to the lack of an Aadhaar card. In Jharkhand, thousands are denied ration in the name of Aadhaar.
Aadhaar is being forced down the throat of the Indian citizens under the shroud of welfare. It was introduced by the government for the protection of the poor and needy, but the most problems are faced by them. Activists and journalists are shocked and appalled that a person’s fundamental right to food is being denied because of draconian government policy. If the provisions are not in place to implement Aadhaar in such haste, then why make it mandatory and put so many people under distress? Isn’t the credibility of the government at stake?
A government is responsible for the welfare of the people of the country. What is frightening is that even after cases of death was brought in front of the public, such incidents keep on happening. What is a government without its people? What is the point of denying a person food, for so many months for something as trivial as Aadhaar? Are government policies more important than human lives?
The Logical Indian urges the Uttarakhand government to look into the matter and to ensure that widows and handicaps get their pension timely and that Aadhaar doesn’t stand as a hindrance for them to make both ends meet.
Read more at The Times of India