As many as 272 families in Odisha’s Nabarangpur district did not receive their quota of foodgrains for the months of September and October because of discrepancies in linking their Aadhaar numbers to the public distribution system, the Right to Food campaign has found after conducting a survey in 63 villages.

As of September 16, more than 18.67 lakh people were excluded from the list of beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act in Odisha as they could not link their Aadhaar numbers with their ration cards.

Under the National Food Security Act passed in 2013, the government must provide five kg of a monthly supply of subsidised food grains per person to two-thirds of the country’s population. But reports show that the identification of beneficiaries under this law has had problems, with many poor people not making it to the lists. And even those who were listed as beneficiaries were reportedly being denied rations because of the government’s decision to link the public distribution system to Aadhaar. Many families were struck off the PDS list as non-existent beneficiaries because they had failed to furnish their 12-digit biometrics-based identification numbers.

The families surveyed in Nabarangpur had 1,271 members. Of this, 435 members were struck off the PDS lists either because they did not have an Aadhaar number or because the number could not be linked. Seventeen of these families, which had 50 members, did not receive any ration at all for these two months because none of their Aadhaar numbers were seeded.

Of the 435 members eliminated due to the non-linking of Aadhar numbers with PDS, 35% were children below 10 years of age, the survey showed. As many as 228 people of this list have an Aadhaar number but it could not be seeded due to several reasons.

The survey was conducted by the Odisha Khadya Adhikar Abhiyan, the Odisha chapter of National Right to Food Campaign in the first week of October. They surveyed 63 villages in Nabarangpur district across 25 gram panchayats.

In repeated orders since 2013, the Supreme Court has emphasised that the possession of an Aadhaar number cannot be made mandatory to avail of any government welfare benefits, particularly to buy subsidised foodgrains under the National Food Security Act. Despite this, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and several other states have made Aadhaar-linked biometric authentication compulsory at government-run ration shops. The Centre, too, made this linkage compulsory in a government order in February 2017.’s Identity Project series has consistently reported instances of eligible families being denied rations for want of an Aadhaar.

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