Nine-year-old Rakhi and her two brothers, who live in Lucknow, should go to school. But his afternoon is spent watching cartoons on his father’s phone. He moved from Hardoi to Lucknow last year but the local school refused to admit him as he does not have Aadhaar. There are thousands of children like Rakhi who are deprived of schools because of this.
The family, who sell small items such as chocolate candy outside their hut, have made several unsuccessful attempts. Rakhi’s mother Sunita Saxena says, “When we were in Hardoi, the children used to go to a nearby private school. They didn’t ask for Aadhaar. Last year, we ran a lot to get the children’s Aadhaar but it didn’t happen nothing Think it’s sending the kids back to their grandparents in Hardoi so they can study.
The government says no children have been refused entry. Vijay Kiran Anand, a senior official in the Uttar Pradesh education department, says, “No government school has denied admission to children because they do not have Aadhaar.”
India had started the Aadhaar system in 2009 with the aim of regularizing payments made to people under the welfare scheme. Since then, Aadhaar has been made mandatory for all types of jobs. Now, from paying taxes to getting government grants, Aadhar card is required at every work.
This card is like an identity card, in which a unique number has been given to each person. Along with this there are also fingerprints, eye scan and photograph. Government figures say more than 1.2 billion people have received Aadhaar cards. Even then, millions of Indians still do not have Aadhar cards. These include more homeless, transgender, tribal or poor people who do not have a permanent address or other documents required for registration.
Deepa Sinha, assistant professor at Ambedkar University, who researched the base, confirms this. She says, “Poor and vulnerable sections of people who are deprived of a lot of Aadhaar who cannot raise their voice to schools or institutions asking for it.”
In 2014, the Supreme Court of India said that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory for welfare schemes. When the government tried to make Aadhaar mandatory for everything from pensions to SIM cards, the Supreme Court had also banned it in 2018.
Sinha says the Supreme Court order had no significant effect. She says, “Though the Supreme Court has said that no one should be denied facilities due to non-availability of Aadhaar, but even so it is happening.”
In a report in April this year, the auditor general had said that the Aadhaar issuing body, UIDAI, should reconsider the Aadhaar requirement for children below five years of age. UIDAI has not commented on this report.
There are reports that Aadhaar will now be made mandatory for the program that provides free food to pregnant women and poor children up to six years of age. However, commenting on these reports, the Ministry of Women and Child Development tweeted that Aadhaar is not mandatory for children but parents should have Aadhaar.
Human rights activists are concerned about this decision, as about eight million children receive food under this program. According to official data, only a quarter of children under the age of five have an Aadhaar card. Sinha says that if Aadhaar is made mandatory for this scheme, millions of children will be out of reach, including those families who are still facing the ill effects of the Kovid epidemic.
The Pew Research Center has said in a report that in 2020, due to the Kovid epidemic, the number of poor people in India, that is, the number of people with a daily income of less than two dollars or one hundred and half a rupee, increased by seven. and half a million
Sinha says, “Due to the pandemic, more people are now dependent on these welfare schemes. Now is the time to take children to school or other social centers and not stop them by making Aadhaar mandatory.” Although systems like Aadhaar are being adopted across the world to improve governance, but the UN Special Human Rights Officer says that due to such systems like digital identification, people from weaker sections is falling behind.
Reads: Pakistan: Denied services without digital identity cards
Human rights activists and technology experts in India have also raised concerns such as privacy and data security violations. They say data submitted under Aadhaar can be misused. However, UIDAI has denied this possibility, saying that its security system is tight and designed to protect data and privacy.