Aadhaar must for scholarships, fellowships

The Centre has made it mandatory for students to submit their Aadhaar number for grant of scholarships and higher education fellowships.

Referring to an instruction from the HRD Ministry, the University Grants Commission (UGC) on Wednesday asked vice-chancellors of all universities to send in Aadhaar details of the students receiving scholarships or fellowships under various schemes. The higher education regulator has also asked vice-chancellors to put up information about their students on the websites.

“The HRD Ministry, vide its letter dated June 10, 2016, has instructed the commission that from financial year 2016-17 Aadhaar has been mandatory for disbursement of all government subsidies, scholarships and fellowships, which are to be disbursed directly into the beneficiaries’ account,” UGC secretary Jaspal S Sandhu said in a letter to the vice-chancellors. “I reiterate that Aadhaar has been mandatory from this financial year (2016-17) for disbursement of scholarships and fellowships. To prevent any hardship to the fellows or scholars, it would be appropriate that immediate action is taken by your esteemed university or institution and the affiliated colleges so that the data is made available to the UGC to allow seamless flow of the scholarships and fellowships to the beneficiaries,” he said.

The UGC’s directive comes months after Parliament passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, in March. This made Aadhaar a must for the “receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service” for which the expenditure is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The Centre brought the legislation to provide for targeted delivery of subsidies and services to individuals residing in India by assigning them Aadhaar numbers, even as the Supreme Court, while hearing a matter last year, had held that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory.

Hearing a plea filed by the Centre on October 15, 2015, the court had allowed collection of Aadhaar details from the beneficiaries of public distribution schemes, cooking gas distribution schemes, national rural employment guarantee schemes, national social assistance programmes, Jan Dhan Yojna and employees provident fund organisations.

“We shall also make it clear that the Aadhaar scheme is purely voluntary and cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this court one way or the other,” it had ruled.

The UGC had then directed vice-chancellors to instruct students to apply for Aadhaar cards at the regional offices of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UlDAl).