Recent investigations in Jharkhand reveal a clear and disturbing pattern behind the manner in which Aadhaar ended up excluding people from rations, pensions and jobs and generated “fake savings” in the bargain. The pattern is as follows:
Step 1: Cancel job cards, ration cards or pensions not linked with Aadhaar.
Step 2: Declare that the concerned persons or cards were “fake”.
Step 3: Count the money being saved as “savings due to Aadhaar”.
In Jharkhand, NREGA job cards have been cancelled in large numbers to meet “100% Aadhaar seeding” targets. This was admitted by the Secretary Rural Development himself at a meeting with the Chief Secretary on 2 November 2015*. In April 2017, the central government claimed that nearly 1 crore “fake job cards” had been cancelled with the help of Aadhaar. However, in response to an RTI, the central government later gave a breakdown of the reasons for cancellation – “fakes” and “duplicates” accounted for only 12.6% of all cancelled cards, or less than 1% of all job cards.
In 2017, Aadhar-less ration cards were cancelled en masse in Jharkhand. On 22 September 2017, the Government of Jharkhand claimed that 11 lakh fake ration cards had been cancelled thanks to Aadhaar. But verification exercises in Latehar and Khunti show that most of the cancelled ration cards are not fake. Many of them belong to families that were unable to link their ration card with Aadhaar for not faul of their own. One of these families was that of Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year old girl who died of hunger in Simdega district last September.
The Government of Jharkhand also claimed recently that 2 lakh “fake” pensioners had been removed from the pension lists with the help of Aadhaar. A verification of about 100 cancelled pensions in Khunti, however, reveals that few of them – if any – were fake. Many belonged to people who had simply not been unable to link their pension with Aadhaar.
In October 2016, the district administration in Khunti (and perhaps elsewhere in Jharkhand too) stopped paying social security pensions to those who had failed to link their Aadhaar number with the relevant bank account and pension list. Some of them were able to do so later, and their pension resumed, but they lost the payments due to them in the intervening period. Others are still struggling to set things right, or have lost hope.
In each case, the government’s own data (extracted through RTIs or otherwise) shows that most of the cancelled cards or pensions were not “fake”. Yet the propaganda continues.
* “He explained that many Job Cards that were not linked Aadhaar have been cancelled in the past to increase the rate of Aadhaar seeding of NREGA workers.” Statement of Rural Development Secretary, recorded in the minutes of a meeting with Chief Secretary Jharkhand on 2 November 2015.
From: Right To Food Campaign