Aadhaar Compulsory for Bhopal Gas Victims and Rescued Bonded Labourers to Access Compensation Now

Just days after it announced that Aadhaar will be compulsory for children to access the mid-day meal scheme, the government announced two more such orders.

In yet another move that shows the government doesn’t plan to stop making Aadhaar compulsory for accessing public services, now victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy and those rescued from bonded labour will also need to use Aadhaar cards to get compensation from the government.

In the case of the Bhopal victims who get compensation from the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers for “death, permanent disability, injury of utmost severity, cancer, total renal failure – will

Victims seeking claims under the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 — including compensation for death, permanent disability, cancer, renal failure, permanent or temporary disability” — will now need to submit either an Aadhaar car or proof that they have applied for one if they want to see any of the money that the government owes them.

The notice from the chemical and fertiliser ministry. Credit: Twitter

The notice from the chemical and fertiliser ministry. Credit: Twitter

The notice from the chemical and fertiliser ministry, issued by Samir Kumar Biswas, joint secretary of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, adds that victims seeking compensation are required to have at least applied for an Aadhaar card by June 30, 2017.

Activist Abdul Jabbar told Scroll that there are currently 5.74 lakh victims eligible for compensation and three lakhs of this number suffer from serious illnesses. He criticised the move, saying, “The court took 15 years to decide who is eligible or not, whether the person is who they are claiming to be.” Adding, “Now, government wants the victims to prove their identity in this manner again.”

Until June 30, the government will continue accepting alternate forms of state-issued ID such as drivers licences. It has even directed the welfare commission in Bhopal to ensure that there is an adequate number of enrolment facilities at convenient locations to expedite the process of Aadhaar registration for those who will now need to apply for the card.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment wasn’t far behind and also issued a notice stating that individuals who receive cash and non-cash compensation as part of the government’s Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme will now be “required to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication.”

The same notice also announces the government’s plans to run a publicity campaign “through media and individual notices” to spread awareness about the new requirement and also encourage people to go register and enrolment facilities.

Just four days ago the government attracted widespread criticism for making Aadhaar compulsory for children to access mid-day meals – even going as far as mandating that helpers and cooks involved in providing these meals also have Aadhaar cards. The Right to Food campaign termed the move an attack on children’s right to food and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the notification.

However, the pushback against the mid-day meal move did not deter the government from issuing two more such orders. Which it then followed up with another confusing statement about the mid-day meal scheme. Today, an official statement claimed, “No one will be deprived of benefits for lack of Aadhaar. Till Aadhaar number is assigned to any individual, the benefit will continue to be given based on alternate means of identification.”

While this sounds reassuring on the face of it, the second sentence which states “Till Aadhaar number is assigned…” implies that the government has not changed its position at all.