‘Outsiders’ can’t apply for Aadhaar in Nagaland. Not even Manipuri Nagas

‘Outsiders’ can’t apply for Aadhaar in Nagaland. Not even Manipuri Nagas

Even as the rest of the country debates if Aadhaar should become compulsory for availing government subsidies and filing income tax returns, in Nagaland, the non-indigenous population is facing a unique problem.

At the centre of the problem is a state government notification that stands in the way of these residents getting an Aadhaar card.

Somung, a Manipuri working for HDFC Bank in Kohima, is among the people affected by this notification. Somung went to the District Commissioner’s office on Tuesday to get himself enrolled for the unique identification number. “But I was told that I cannot get myself registered in Kohima and that I should go to my hometown to get an Aadhaar,” he says.

Somung is not the only such person. Michael (name changed on request), a former journalist, too, wanted to get himself registered for a UID. He, too, like Somung, is from Manipur, albeit from a Naga tribe.

Michael, too, faced the same problem: a point-blank refusal and a request to go back to the home state for getting the Aadhaar number, which will soon be mandatory for availing a host of government subsidies, since the government wants to plug leaks by linking subsidies to UIDs.

Naturally, all those who have not yet registered themselves in the UIDAI database want to do so as the deadline gets closer.

Aadhaar in Nagaland

Nagaland was one of the 10 states which were covered under the National Population Register scheme. It only came under the ambit of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in November 2016.

According to a report in the Morung Express, a local newspaper, the state Home department was supposed to be the nodal department to oversee Aadhaar enrolment, “with Home commissioner as the state registrar and all offices of deputy commissioners, additional deputy commissioners and SDO designated as enrolment agencies.”

This was done to speed up Aadhaar enrollment as Nagaland was lagging behind other states in terms of the percentage of population which had enrolled for Aadhaar.

In response to an unstarred question in Parliament, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had said that in Nagaland, the number of people enrolled for Aadhaar stood at 11,54,128, just more than half the state’s population according to the 2011 Census.

However, on 27 February this year, the office of the commissioner issued a notification to the deputy commissioners and all enrolment agencies, directing them “to start the biometric enrolment under your respective jurisdiction at district headquarters for the indigenous inhabitants of the state based on document verification only.”

The notification referred to another direction by the state government in January 2016.

Precautionary measure

Sentiyanger Imchen, principal secretary and commissioner of Nagaland, says the notification was issued because the state government wants to be sure of who gets enrolled for Aadhaar; that it is a “precautionary measure”, since there are fears of illegal immigrants getting themselves registered under UIDAI.

In Assam, indigenous groups were up in arms due to similar suspicions about illegal immigrants, and as a result, Aadhaar is awaiting completion of the National Register of Citizens, even though the government has clarified that Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship.

Differing views

UIDAI officials insist that the scheme entails that anybody who has the basic documents in place can get registered anywhere in the country, in states where Aadhaar registration is open.

LK Pegu, the Deputy Director General of the UIDAI, says he does not know of any such notification in Nagaland, but said “it was a matter for the state”.

Michael finds the Nagaland rule absurd. “What about students, and others who are working in the state? They are facing immense problems,” he says.

Imchen, however, claims that the issue will be resolved soon. “We are trying to streamline the process,” he says.