In a move led by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), BJP-ruled States, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Haryana, have petitioned the Supreme Court to allow Aadhaar to be used for all government welfare schemes.
Simultaneously, the Election Commission of India and a phalanx of banking and economic regulators — the Reserve Bank of India, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority of India – have also filed similar clarification/modification applications in the apex court.
This comes ahead of October 6, when the Supreme Court will consider the merits of these applications seeking clarification of the order it passed on August 11 to restrict the use of Aadhaar cards to the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS), including the disbursement of kerosene and LPG.
In that order, the apex court had directed the government to give wide publicity that it would not be mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card, that its production would not be a condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen and that information about residents collected by the Unique Identification Authority Of India (UIDAI) would not be used for any other purpose except for the schemes mentioned and as directed by a court for criminal investigation only.
The Supreme Court had also decided to refer to a Constitution Bench whether the right to privacy of a citizen is a fundamental right or not.
Now, the Modi government’s push to universalise Aadhaar will once again foreground the concerns about violation of privacy as well as the fear that the poor and vulnerable might themselves be excluded from welfare benefits. Indeed, in its August 11 order, the Supreme Court had said, “No person should be denied any benefits or “suffer” for not having the Aadhaar cards issued by Unique Identification Authority of India.”
But official sources told The Hindu that the government believed — like its predecessor United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government — that the Aadhaar card would become an instrument of good governance, cut out the middlemen and eliminate corruption.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is part of his JAM trinity — Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar, mobile governance. On Wednesday, shortly after he returned from the US, official sources said, the Prime Minister held a review meeting of Aadhaar enrolments: he urged Chief Secretaries of the various States present that they must expedite enrolment and ensure Aadhaar cards to the entire population by December.