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No identity for homeless?

The Modi government may have made Aadhaar mandatory for availing various schemes but it has overlooked the hardships faced by homeless people in the absence of Aadhaar card. Already people have filed several petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the seeding of Aadhaar with various services. The apex court asked the government how will a homeless person obtain Aadhaar card if they are shelter-less? A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said that lakhs of homeless will find it difficult to avail various schemes due to lack of Aadhaar cards. “It means that they are not-existent for the governments,” the bench said when it was informed that people have to furnish proof of permanent address for obtaining Aadhaar card.

Not only shelter-less people but those migrating to other cities in search of employment too are undergoing problems with Aadhaar as either they have to update their address with UIDAI or else they have to furnish other documents like licence agreement, electricity bill as address proofs. Even those who change their mobile numbers are facing difficulties as they have to first change their number in Aadhaar database or else they won’t receive One Time Password (OTP) required for authenticating banking and e-commerce transactions. Thus, the government will first have to iron out various glitches before making Aadhaar compulsory for availing various schemes. Senior citizens too are finding it difficult to link their mobile numbers with Aadhaar as their fingerprints are not readable by the biometric device. Some of them were denied pension due to non-recognition of finger prints.

When AV spoke to Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner (CIC), he said, “I think the whole idea of making Aadhaar compulsory is making mixed up with several unnecessary issues. The basic idea of generating Aadhaar is to make biometric and photograph the only representative of your identity; more than photograph, biometric is more appropriate and it can’t be duplicated. Earlier migrants from different states used to undergo various difficulties for not possessing proper identification documents. The main objective behind Aadhaar is to resolve that issue.”

“Initially, the purpose of Aadhaar was that if a person had Aadhaar card he need not had to furnish any other documents. With the passage of time, the concept of Aadhaar is getting out of shape. I feel the government should concentrate on the basics and make biometric as the sole mode of identity instead of going haywire on the plan,” he added.

A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court will begin final hearing from January 17 on the validity of Aadhaar. The government has extended the deadline for compulsory seeding of Aadhaar to avail the benefits of various government schemes till March 31.

Ram Shinde, Ahmednagar guardian minister said, “The government is trying its best to make Aadhaar reach and be beneficial to every citizen of India. As far as government benefits for homeless people are concerned, in the recent winter session of the state legislature, the government has passed a law providing 500 sq ft plot to each homeless as per the 2011 census. Those people who have migrated to the city after 2011, they have to take helps of the local body of each area to establish the authenticity of their identity.”

As per 2011 census, there are 17, 73,040 shelter-less people in India — 52.9 per cent in urban areas and 47.1 per cent in rural areas. The Supreme Court has decided to form committees in all states and Union Territories for supervising construction of shelter homes.

Virag Gupta, Supreme Court Advocate and Cyber Law Expert said that there is a mismatch between the Government statements and actions on the field. He said, There are provisions to provide Aadhaar Card to homeless persons. In India, many people are yet to get Aadhaar, so it does not mean that such persons do not exist in the eyes of the government. However, there are two important points on which Supreme Court is yet to pronounce its judgment. Firstly, the validity of Aadhaar has been challenged since it was passed as a money bill. Secondly, whether it can be made mandatory, this is also under consideration of the apex court.”

“The basic purpose of Aadhaar card was to make biometric as a sole identity of each individual in the country. However, there is no mechanism of KYC verification at the time of issuance of Aadhaar number. That is why Aadhaar is not considered as a legal proof of identity or address which may lead to the requirement of other documents. As per Home Ministry, there are 3.5 crore Bangladeshi illegal migrants in India and it is easier for them to get Aadhaar card,” he added.

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