Centre bows to people pressure
After facing flak over the decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for government schemes, including Mid-day meal, the Centre on Tuesday finally succumbed to public pressure and took a U-turn, a day before the final phase of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur.
According to the political experts, the move is a damage- control exercise as in Uttar Pradesh 1.2 crore kids, enrolled in over 1.68 lakh government schools, are getting benefits of the mid-day scheme.
Giving no room to opposition parties to corner the ruling party in the upcoming second leg of the Budget Session, the Centre on Tuesday cancelled its earlier order saying no one will be deprived of the benefits for lack of Aadhaar. In a statement issued, the government reiterated that till Aadhaar number is assigned to any individual, the benefit will continue to be given based on alternate means of identification.
Political rivals — West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Kerala CM P Vijayan — have already condemned the MHRD notification making Aadhaar mandatory for school students covered under the mid-day meal programme. Both Trinamool Congress and Congress have sent notices to the Rajya Sabha chairman demanding a debate on the issue.
In a U-turn, the Centre has also directed the departments to provide Aadhaar enrolment facilities to their beneficiaries under Regulation 12 of Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations 2016.
Considering the usefulness of Aadhaar in plugging leakages and bringing transparency in the delivery system, the government had recently issued orders to use Aadhaar in several other welfare schemes funded from the Consolidated Fund of India. While these orders require beneficiaries of these programs to give their Aadhaar number, it has also been ensured that no one is deprived of the benefits for want of Aadhaar.
In case of the Mid-Day Meal scheme and under the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the schools and Anganwadis have been asked to collect the Aadhaar number of the child beneficiaries and in case a child does not have Aadhaar, the school or ICDS functionary will be required to provide enrolment facilities to a child and till Aadhaar number is assigned, the benefits will continue.
Midday meal scheme (MDMS) is a centrally sponsored scheme to boost the universalisation of primary education by increasing enrolment, retention and attendance in primary and upper primary classes.
Aadhaar has been given to more than 112 crore people and with such wide and extensive coverage, Aadhaar has become an important tool of transformation, good governance and empowerment of people, the official statement said.