Aadhaar card centres struggle to meet demand ahead of I-T returns deadline

MUMBAI: Citizens are facing difficulty enrolling for new Aadhaar card registration ahead of the July 31 deadline for linking it to online tax returns. In many places Aadhaar centres have closed down, elsewhere the server is down. Similar scenes are witnessed in Fort, Parel, Andheri, Jogeshwari, even Thane.

The UIDAI department of the Central government has passed on the responsibility for preparing Aadhaar cards to state governments. Maharashtra was not prepared for this and has outsourced the task to private firms since it does not have the requisite in-house staff to handle this voluminous exercise.

“In Fort area there are two centres but they only give 30 applications in a day so people queue up as early as 6.00am. I am trying to apply since one week without success. On Monday also they said the server was down,” said mediaperson Sandesh Thakur. His colleague Srinjani tried at two private centres in Andheri East where one rep said his “computer was stolen” and another said his was “under repair”.

The Aadhaar card has been made mandatory for all individuals filing online tax returns on or after July 1. Assessees must quote either the Aadhaar card number or their registration number to show they have applied. Cellphone operators are also demanding that Aadhaar be linked to phone numbers.

A UIDAI official at the central office in Cuffe Parade said, “Some Aadhaar centres have been closed but others have opened. The details are updated online. Even certain post offices like GPO now have Aadhaar centres. It is unfortunate that people are waking up now given that Aadhaar was started in 2010. Even if they do not manage to enrol by July 31, they can still file income tax returns manually and dispatch the document by post to Bengaluru.”

“I visited two centres in Parel last week only to be asked to return after having waited for hours. Some centres are handing out 30 enrolment coupons a day but are still unable to cope with the daily rush. I saw a mother waiting in queue with her small child amid pouring rain,’ said Radhika Sikka who works in the redeveloped mill area of Parel.

On Monday the permanent Aadhaar centres in Behram Baug, Jogeshwari West, as well as Jogeshwari caves precinct on the east side were doing their best to accommodate applicants. Priti Sawant who manages the Behram Baug centre said, “This branch opens at 9.00am but people say they queue up at 6.00am. We feel sorry for them ourselves. Although we function till 5.30pm there is always a spillover to next day. It takes 15-20 minutes to scan each applicant so we are helpless.”

In Jogeshwari East, Vikrant Shingre said his centre functions from 7.00-9.00pm. “The operator works a day job and arrives here in the evening,” he said.

In Kalyan West, around 70 applicants who registered on July 8-9 were informed that their enrolment was cancelled owing to a technical fault. “There was an error at the UIDAI end. But we rang each individual and alerted them to register once more,” said Nilesh Bhate who runs this private enrolment centre. The applicants did not have to pay twice although Nilesh did suffer losses in the repeat exercise.

Thane resident Arundhati Khanna said, “On the official website there are several Aadhaar centres but actually only two are operational in Thane city. One is at Yashwant Tower the other at Lodha Building on Ghodbunder Road.Even here, last month for several days it was not operational because servers were down. People do not know this so they keep arriving. The mobile phone numbers and land lines listed are mostly unavailable.”
Shailesh Mishra, who runs an NGO for the elderly, complained that senior citizens whose fingerprints are not recognisable due to old age are unable to link documents. “In Mira Road I saw an old lady trying to link her SIM card to Aadhaar but failed four times as her fingerprint was not recognised by the machine. The mobile phone store representative said if he tried one more time, the Aadhaar card would be blocked.” Mishra also sought mobile van services in housing societies and institutions for seniors and disabled persons.