Children at government schools will no longer get their free midday meals unless they enrol for an Aadhaar number, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has said in a new notification. The February 28 notification makes the 12-digit identity number, linked to biometric data, mandatory for schoolchildren as as well as for the “cook-cum-helpers” who serve them.

The notification says under section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, children, as well as cook-cum-helpers, who do not have an Aadhaar number will have to apply for Aadhaar enrollment by June 30. Further, to continue getting hot cooked meals from now until June 30, the children will have to produce all of the following:

  • Proof of having enrolled in the form of an enrolment ID slip, or a request made for enrolment in the form of an “Aadhaar letter” (a document conveying Aadhaar number to the resident)
  • An undertaking by the parent or legal guardian stating that the child is not availing of the hot cooked meal from any other school
  • Any of eight documents to prove the child’s relationship with the parent or legal guardian (a birth certificate, ration card or Employee State Insurance Scheme card or Central Government Health Scheme card, bank or post office photo passbook, Kisan photo passbook, certificate of identity with photo of cook-cum-helper issued by a school principal, any other document specified by state government)

The documents will be verified by an officer specially designated by the department in states. The notification also states that under the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations, notified in September 2016, concerned departments of state governments will be required to provide Aadhaar enrollment facilities.

More than 98% of adults in India have enrolled in the Aadhaar scheme. However, of the 23.4 crore Indians who did not have an Aadhaar number in 2016, 21.7 crore – more than 90% – were children.

The midday meal scheme is the world’s biggest school lunch programme, and has been implemented since over 13 years as an effort to improve the nutritional status of young students. Under the scheme, children studying in Class 1 to 8 are served one hot cooked meal on working days, and during summer vacations in drought-affected areas. More than 10.2 crore children were served meals in 2015-16.

While several ministries and government departments have asked for Aadhaar to be produced for citizens to continue getting services and legal entitlements, only two ministries have issued legal notifications so far.

The Ministry of Human Resources Development is the second ministry to issue a notification to make Aadhaar mandatory after the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas issued a notification on October 5, 2016 under section 7 of the Act saying Aadhaar was mandatory to get subsidised gas cylinders.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Supreme Court passed three orders saying the Centre cannot make having an Aadhaar number a pre-condition to access public services. The case is now pending before a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court.