The Right to Food Campaign on Thursday said it was “shocked and dismayed” the Centre believes Aadhaar cards are necessary to avail of welfare schemes – a comment the government made during the right to privacy hearings in the Supreme Court. Attorney General KK Venugopal had said that Aadhaar was necessary to secure the right to life – meaning food and shelter – for poor citizens.
“The Campaign, however, is dismayed to hear that…the government is claiming before the nine-judge constitution bench that these programmes need Aadhaar,” it said in a statement.
The Right to Food Campaign is an informal network of organisations and individuals working towards the implementation of the right to food in the country. A nine-judge bench is currently hearing the matter to decide whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right or not.
Citing figures released by individual state food departments, the Campaign said at least 33 lakh families in Rajasthan were unable to access Public Distribution system ration entitlement each month because of the mandatory integration of PDS with Aadhaar details. Some senior citizens were denied their ration and pension entitlement as their biometrics do not match.
“Such deprive the genuine beneficiaries of the schem and must be penalised,” the Campaign further said.
The campaign said the government’s plans to make Aadhaar mandatory for mid-day meals could also deprive the genuine beneficiaries of the scheme. “The Right to Food Campaign feels that by putting all the focus on Aadhaar, the government is distracting attention from the real issues in the implementation of these programmes,” it said. “The Campaign urges the Constitution bench to take note of the mounting evidence of the failure of Aadhaar in welfare programmes.”
The Campaign urged the government to immediately withdraw the notification that seeks to link Aadhaar with welfare programmes.
On Thursday, Venugopal had told the Supreme Court that even if the right to privacy is assumed to be a fundamental one, it is multifaceted. “Every facet can not be ipso facto [by that very fact or act] considered a fundamental right,” he said.
The outcome of the hearing is likely to determine whether Aadhaar cards violate such a right. The bench hopes to determine whether citizens have the right to privacy under the Indian Constitution.