Government plans to link Aadhaar with five big schemes focussed on children

NEW DELHI: children receiving mid-day meals, primary healthcare or elementary education under government schemes will undergo Aadhaar enrolment as the Narendra Modi government is making a pitch for the first time to make Aadhaar relevant for children.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked for five big schemes focussed on crores of children in the country to be linked with Aadhaar enrolment of children, two officials familiar with the matter have told ET. These schemes are Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyanmik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). Children receiving benefits under these schemes, but without an Aadhaar, will now be enrolled for it.

So far, Aadhaar usage has been focussed on adults – 98% of country’s adults have an Aadhaar. But only 23% of children below five years of age and 65% of children aged between 5-18 have an Aadhaar as parents saw little use of enrolling kids for it. Out of the 23.42 Cr people without an Aadhaar in the country till date, 21.71 Cr are children. Over 11 Cr Children get mid-day meals at schools across the country. “The benefit will not be denied to any child if he does not have an Aadhaar…we will enroll the child for Aadhaar if he/she is without one,” a senior official said.

The Women And Child Development (WCD) and Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministries and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) have been asked by PMO to advise states that grants given to schools or anganwadis should be based on Aadhaar-based enrolment and children are to be enrolled for Aadhaar. This will avoid any inconvenience at the stage when the Aadhaar Act is fully notified, another official added.

“The Centre allots nearly Rs 50000 Cr every year in all for these 5 major child-specific programmes. As per the Aadhaar Act, all money going out of the consolidated fund of India to any beneficiary must be linked to Aadhaar. This will ensure no leakage or diversion of funds,” the official told ET.

The WCD Ministry, which implements ICDS and ICPS, and Department of School Education of the HRD Ministry, which oversees Mid-Day meal, SSA and RMSA, will “own the enrolment work” of children and “get on-boarded as Registrars” for Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) along with their state counterparts to carry out the enrolment work of children at a fast pace, officials aware of the matter explained.
UIDAI is already telling all states to enrol infants under Aadhaar in hospitals soon after birth, like in Haryana, by linking Aadhaar with birth registration. Apart from special ongoing enrolment drives in schools and anganwadis, WCD Ministry has been asked to become a UIDAI registrar and do enrolments at anganwadis twice a year while the School Education Department has been asked to do the same in schools twice a year.

Under the Mid-Day meal scheme, the Centre gives nearly Rs 10000 Cr a year to states for providing hot cooked meals to 11 Cr school-going children. Rs 22500 Cr was allotted to Sarv Shiksa Abhiyan in 2016-17 for elementary education of nearly 20 Cr children in the age group of 6-14 years while nearly Rs 10000 Cr is allotted to RMSA for enhancing children access to secondary education and achieve universal retention.

The ICDS scheme at an annual central budget of Rs 8300 Cr reaches nearly 4 lakh infants under 6 years of age, providing them primary healthcare and immunisation facilities and help them fight malnutrition. The ICPS scheme meant to give protection to vulnerable children comes with a budget allocation of nearly Rs 400 Cr. Recently, the Centre had also made Aadhaar linking mandatory for students to get scholarships.