New Delhi: The government on Thursday clarified that Aadhaar is “desirable" but not mandatory to avail benefits under the Centre’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat—National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM).

The clarification came after a section of the media reported that the Centre had published a gazette notification making Aadhaar mandatory for beneficiaries under its health insurance scheme.

A beneficiary eligible for receiving benefits shall be required to furnish proof of possession of an Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication, media reports said quoting the notification.

“Notification of the Ayushman Bharat—National Health Protection Mission being issued by the Health Ministry under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, merely enables the implementation agencies to ask for the beneficiary Aadhaar Card to authenticate their identity.

In order to authenticate the identity of beneficiaries accurately, the use of Aadhaar card is preferable, but it is not a “must".

“There shall be no denial of benefit for want of Aadhaar number," the ministry said in its clarification.

The scheme is aimed at providing insurance cover of Rs5 lakh per year for hospitalisation to 10.74 crore poor families. “We will provide services to all eligible beneficiaries with or without Aadhaar cards," Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda said.

The health ministry said the draft notification also provided for alternative identification mechanisms such as ration card, voter ID card, MGNREGA card in case the beneficiary does not have an Aadhaar number.

“Furthermore, it also makes the implementation agencies accountable for setting up of Aadhaar enrolment centres for beneficiaries who are not yet enrolled at convenient locations," it added.

AB-NHPM guidelines on beneficiary identification very clearly state that beneficiaries can bring Aadhaar or any other valid government ID decided by the state if they do not have an Aadhaar," the ministry added.