New Delhi: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asked various government departments, state governments and ministries to ensure that no essential service or benefit, such as medical treatment, school admission or ration through Public Distribution Service (PDS), be denied to a genuine beneficiary for the want of Aadhaar.
The move comes at a time when several cases have been reported where the beneficiary has either died due to starvation as the Aadhaar-enabled point-of-sale machine at the local ration shop failed to authenticate his/her biometrics or medical treatment has been denied due to lack of Aadhaar.
“The government is sensitive to the fact that no emergency services such as hospitalisation, etc., be denied for the want of any document whatsoever including Aadhaar," the UIDAI said in a statement on Saturday. Aadhaar enables people to establish their identity so that they receive their entitlements and exercise their rights without any fear of being excluded, it added.
The statement said the Aadhaar Act has clear provision for “no exclusion—no denials."
There are more than 1.2 billion Aadhaar number holders in the country.
The UIDAI also said that it had issued a circular in October last year and Cabinet Secretariat had issued instructions in December which contain detailed guidelines for exception-handling mechanism for extending benefits to beneficiaries who do not posses Aadhaar or in cases where Aadhaar authentication is not successful due to any reason.
The UIDAI reiterated that if someone does not have Aadhaar or if Aadhaar online verification is not successful due to some reason, the agency or department has to provide the service as per Aadhaar Act, 2016 by using alternate means of identification.
All transactions or verifications in such cases have to be recorded in exception registers which should be audited periodically by the higher authorities, it said.
“If any official of a department denies a service for the lack of Aadhaar or lack of successful verification due to technical or any such reasons, a complaint should be lodged with the higher authorities of those departments for such unlawful denials," the statement said.
Taking a “serious note" of some of the cases reported in media recently in which it is claimed that the want of Aadhaar has resulted in the denial of essential services, the UIDAI said that the real facts behind such claims of denial are being investigated by the concerned agencies.
“Strict action will be taken in case denial has occurred," the UIDAI added.
According to the statement, Aadhaar is meant to bring transparency and accountability in public service deliveries through effective use of technology and it should not be misused and made an excuse to any denial in the services.
Aadhaar is mandatory for availing of social welfare benefits, filing of income tax returns (ITR) as well as for obtaining and retaining the Permanent Account Number (PAN) required for filing ITRs. It is also mandatory to link Aadhaar with bank accounts, mobile phone numbers and other services.
A Supreme Court constitution bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra is currently hearing a challenge to the constitutional validity of Aadhaar.
As part of the arguments against the unique identification number, Aadhaar’s architecture has been criticized on grounds of it leading to a surveillance state by tracking people or using their personal data if not curtailed, being destructive of a limited Constitution and violating an individual’s fundamental right to privacy. Issues with UIDAI’s enrolment procedure that raised concerns about data breaches have also put been forth.
Priyanka Mittal contributed to the story.