Aadhaar is now compulsory for two more groups of citizens – victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, and workers rescued from bonded labour.

The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has made Aadhaar mandatory for them to avail cash compensation from the government. Victims seeking claims under the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 — including compensation for death, permanent disability, cancer, renal failure, permanent or temporary disability — will now need to submit an Aadhaar enrollment proof, according to a notice issued by Samir Kumar Biswas, joint secretary of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals on Monday.

To avail “the benefits of cash compensation” under the scheme, victims of the man-made disaster have till June 30 to apply for their unique identity number. The Office of the Welfare Commissioner in Bhopal for the victims of the industrial calamity has been asked to ensure there are enrollment facilities at convenient locations.

Until they have their UID number assigned, individuals eligible for compensation need to submit:

  •   Aadhaar enrolment ID slip, or a copy of their Aadhaar application    
  •   a copy of another ID proof, such as voter ID card, PAN card, passport or driving licence.    

Abdul Jabbar, who has been working to secure compensation for victims in Bhopal, said that they are paid through account payee bank cheques. He said 5.74 lakh victims are eligible for compensation, of whom over 3 lakh suffer from serious illnesses. Jabbar said he estimated that several victims had enrolled in Aadhaar for accessing other ration schemes, but questioned the rationale behind the move. “The court took 15 years to decide who is eligible or not, whether the person is who they are claiming to be,” he said. “Now, government wants the victims to prove their identity in this manner again,” he said.

On the intervening night of December 3 and December 4, 1984, more than five lakh people were exposed to the highly-toxic methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals that had leaked from the Union Carbide India Ltd’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. According to state government figures, more than 3,500 people were killed in the incident.

Mandatory for bonded workers

In a similar notification, the Ministry of Labour and Employment has made possessing an Aadhaar number or Aadhaar enrollment slip necessary for workers rescued from bonded or forced labour, to get any cash or non-cash assistance from the government. It stated that workers must enroll in Aadhaar by June 30, 2017, and in the interim they have to show proof of applying for Aadhaar, along with other IDs.

Chandan Kumar, an activist working to support workers rescued from bonded labour said so far, a sub-divisional magistrate could issue a bonded labour certification for workers rescued from forced labour conditions ion brick kilns, construction sites, and working as domestic workers for them to access interim relief. “Now, there will be an additional barrier for workers as the authorities will ask for proof of an unique identification number.”

Between 2013 and 2015, the Supreme Court had 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.

Cabinet Secretariat under prime minister’s office issued a press statement that beneficiaries will be allowed alternate IDs in interim, but all recent notifications require proof of applying for Aadhaar enrollment.