Taking forward the struggle against linking Aadhaar card with midday meals in government schools, National Federation of Indian Women and Right to Food campaign along with MPs from different political parties held a protest outside the Ministry of Human Resource Development here today.
The protest meeting was attended by hundreds of people from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odhisa, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand and Bihar. Activists said they oppose any move by the Central government to make Aadhaar compulsory for children under the midday meal scheme in government schools.
Speaking at the meeting, Kavita Srivastava of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said, “This government should not have any misconception that their electoral victories will dilute our struggle, we will continue to fight for the rights and legal entitlements of the most oppressed and backward communities. The rule for biometrics does not allow children under five years to have any biometric identification. "
Emphasising on government's willingness to get everyone enrolled under Aadhaar, she added, “Mr Modi as part of his Digital India project wants to see India as the largest digital empire in the world and that at the cost of sacrificing the entitlements of crores and crores of women , children and old people in this country. It’s also an indication that now we are moving towards surveillance states whereby a government wants to closely monitor the activities of every individual.”
Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women insisted the government is moving towards complete privatisation by attacking these social welfare schemes.
“It is natural that when Aadhaar card is made mandatory for children to have their entitlements such as midday meal, a large chunk of them will remain excluded from getting these benefits, this will cut the expenditure of the government and in turn cause decrease of footfall in different schools," she said. “Is this the way Prime Minister wants to build a new India, with illiterate youths?” she asked.
In a series of orders, the Supreme Court has made it clear that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for people's entitlements. However, in the last few years, Aadhaar has been made compulsory for a growing list of welfare schemes.
The protest meeting was later joined by Rajya Sabha MPs Oscar Fernandes of Congress and D Raja of the CPI. Addressing the gathering, Fernandes said linking Aadhaar card with midday meal is absolutely ridiculous. "Children from our own country are studying in these schools, the government is trying to withdraw the social welfare schemes initiated by the UPA government. We gave children food and pen in schools, the government is snatching it away from them," he said.
D Raja of the CPI said his party will continue to fight over this issue both outside and inside Parliament. “We raised this issue in Parliament yesterday, it is important for the government to understand that having Aadhaar is voluntary and not mandatory. I understand the concern of people since I myself went to a school where midday meal was served to us."
The government in its last notification had mentioned that schoolchildren will continue to avail the facility of midday meal by using other identities but eventually they will have to get an Aadhaar card.