The Aadhaar scramble in Uttar Pradesh schools might keep some children out of the classroom

Bahadur Singh, principal of the upper primary school in Nanakheda village in Uttar Pradesh, cast a worried glance at the list. Shaking his head, he declared: “Nahi ho payega”. It cannot be done.

The list was of Aadhaar numbers of his students and had many blanks – many were still to submit their 12-digit biometric-based unique identification numbers. In March, the central government made having the number mandatory for school students across the country to get free mid-day meals and other benefits.

The Centre’s notification prompted the Uttar Pradesh government to order its primary and upper primary schools to collect Aadhaar numbers of all Class 1-8 students by June 30. But as the March 21 order setting that deadline mentioned, the state had been asking its schools to get their students registered since April 2015.

In addition to mid-day meals, benefits like free books, uniforms, shoes and school bags are also contingent on Aadhaar. The education department even threatened to stop salaries of principals who failed to comply, agreeing only to push the deadline to July 15 because schools were shut for summer vacation until July 1.

But principals say even this deadline will be hard to meet.

In Nanakheda in Budaun district, 30 of the 134 upper primary students were yet to submit their Aadhaar numbers on July 4. At the primary school, with Classes 1-5 and 206 students, another 35 were left, said the principal Rajkumari.

Singh sees no way he can complete the table of names, Aadhaar or enrolment registration numbers and contact details that he is building by July 15. Many of his students had submitted their biometric information at enrolment camps before but got neither the Aadhaar card nor a receipt. Now they find they cannot enroll afresh.

The ramifications of not enrolling are disastrous. Singh confirmed that once the list is submitted, all those without Aadhaar will have their names deleted from the register. The state will treat students enrolled without Aadhaar numbers as duplications – that is, simultaneously enrolled elsewhere – or, worse, fictitious. “The number we get after this will be considered the final and accurate one and funds for books, uniforms and meals will be released accordingly,” said Gaurav Kumar Saxena, an official in Badaun’s district education office overseeing the Aadhaar enrolment process.

With the reopening of schools after summer vacations, desperation has gripped head teachers across the districts of Moradabad and Budaun, where until as recently as May, large numbers of residents had not enrolled for Aadhaar.

Bags are being withheld in some places, admissions have slowed in others and parents are taking days off during the sowing season to get children registered. Teachers are handing out printed slips with names, birth dates and addresses from the school records to serve as reference letters. Although the state government’s own systems fall laughably short, the plan to strike off names of children who fail to submit Aadhaar numbers by July 15 still stands.