Rethink Aadhaar demands an immediate end to the linkage and use of Aadhaar and biometric authentication

There have been reports coming in of starvation deaths because people are not being able to access their ration entitlements due to failure to link with and authenticate using Aadhaar. Some of these reports can be found in the update from the Right to Food Campaign at the end of this mail. The State of Aadhaar Report 2016-17 shows that failure rates, after multiple attempts, vary between 7% and 17%. Their subsequently updated figures from here is reproduced below. Other reports show failure rates as high as 66% This is unacceptably high and, translated in to absolute numbers, the number beneficiaries being excluded is in the order of crores across the nation. Please also see this documentary to hear voices from the ground about how Aadhaar is playing with peoples lives without any accountability. 

Following these developments, the Department of Food & Public Distribution issued an order (attached with this mail) stating, "all field functionaries in the State may be instructed to ensure that no instance of denial of food grains or deletion of names of family from the Ration Card database only on the ground of non possession of Aadhaar takes place and strict action is taken by State / UT Governments for denial of benefits".

Additionally, there have been reports of denial of healthcare services for lack of Aadhaar against which a statement was issued that also highlighted concerns of privacy of medical history and its linkage to Aadhaar. It can be found here.

Further, a "gang that was involved in counterfeiting Aadhaar cards, hailed for their bulletproof biometric features at the centre of the government's push for reforms in welfare, taxation and communications", put paid to the claim that it is "robust enough to eliminate ... fake identities". Earlier this year, we also learned how "impersonation by illegally storing Aadhaar biometric data" is possible raising serious questions about the security behind the "state-of-the-art digital and online Id" and "one of the key pillars of the ‘Digital India’".

Given the state of Aadhaar, Rethink Aadhaar demands an immediate end to the linkage and use of Aadhaar and biometric authentication to access government services and entitlements.

The latest update from the Right to Food Campaign (which has been edited to include only Aadhaar related updates) is following. We would like to thank Aysha of the Right to Food Campaign (copied on this mail) for this compilation.

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Update from Right to Food Campaign

Dear friends,

Much has happened in the field of right to food and work in this month. Here are some updates:

Do send updates on struggles and other developments on the right to food in your area on [email protected] or WhatsApp - 9716048979


Secretariat, Right to Food Campaign

Starvation death in District Simdega of Jharkhand

Eleven-year-old Santoshi Kumari died asking for rice on September 28, eight months after her family stopped getting food rations from the local ration shop because their ration card was not linked to their Aadhaar.

The child’s death in Jharkhand’s Simdega district has elicited official responses that verge on denial. Jharkhand’s food and civil supplies minister claimed to have nothing to do with an order passed by his own government that led to 11 lakh ration cards being cancelled because the cardholders had not furnished their Aadhaar numbers. The CEO of UIDAI, Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that the Aadhaar Act made it clear that no one will be denied food rations if they did not possess an Aadhaar number.

But this is exactly what is happening. Countless reports by activists and journalists, including Scroll.in’s Identity Project series, have documented the disruption in PDS on account of Aadhaar. Across states, people are struggling to authenticate themselves by scanning their fingerprints each time they go to the ration shop. In many cases, their fingerprints are too worn out to register on the fingerprint scanning machines. Often, the internet connection fails. The result is that they are unable to access the foodgrains they are legally entitled to under the National Food Security Act 2013.

In Jharkhand, the government’s website showed at least 10% of families were unable to buy their food rations, as Jean Drèze, an economist who is part of the Right to Food campaign, pointed out. “That may not seem like a very large number, but in absolute terms, it translates into something like 2.5 million people in Jharkhand being deprived of their food rations,” he said.

The Jharkhand Right Food Campaign has written a letter to Mr. Vinay Chaubey, Secretary, Food and Civic Supply Department, Government of Jharkhand regarding the starvation death. A team from the campaign conducted a fact finding of the death. Click here to see the fact report.  

Links to media reports of the incident are given below: 

  1. Scroll - Denied food because she did not have Aadhaar-linked ration card, Jharkhand girl dies of starvation
  2. Hindustan Times  - Jharkhand girl’s ‘starvation death’: Mother attacked for ‘defaming village’
  3. Indian Express - After starvation death case: Jharkhand minister scraps top state official’s order on Aadhaar-PDS link
  4. Scroll: Chronicle of a starvation death foretold: Why it is time to abandon Aadhaar in the ration shop
  5. Newswing - दे नी आयो भात...दे नी आयो भात...बुदबुदाते हुए भूख से मर गई 11साल की संतोषी
  6. India.com - Aadhaar Card Not Mandatory For Benefits of Welfare Schemes, Says UIDAI Chief Ajay Bhushan Pandey, No Aadhaar Needed For Ration Under PDS: UIDAI
  7. Times of India - Jharkhand 'starvation' death: Security to girl's mother after she alleges abuse by villagers
  8. Scroll - No Aadhaar, no food rations: 11 stories that show the Jharkhand child death was no aberration, Aadhaar is depriving the most vulnerable people of their grain entitlements.

2 more deaths in Jharkhand

A 40-year-old rickshaw driver died on October 23, 2017 in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand. The family has alleged that the rickshaw puller was struggling to make a ration card for the last three years.

An another 62-year-old man died of hunger on Monday in Jharkhand’s Deoghar district after the biometric reader at the PDS shop couldn’t read his thumb impression and he was refused ration, his family alleged, a charge denied by the government.

Three hunger deaths in Karnataka

Starvation deaths have occured in Karnataka as well. In July 2017, three brothers of a dalit family died of starvation in Gokarna district of Karnataka because their local PDS shop refused to give them grain for not linking their ration card to Aadhaar. A report on the matter published in the New Indian Express can be read here.  A fact finding report by a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) can be read here

Featured image used from new article published on scroll.in. Photo credit: Taramani Sahu

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