The right to food campaign strongly opposes the central government’s move to make Aadhaar compulsory for children under the midday meal scheme in government schools. This is nothing but an attempt to coerce people to enrol their children under Aadhaar.
School meals are an important entitlement of Indian children, legally enforceable under Supreme Court orders as well as under the National Food Security Act. Numerous studies show that India’s midday meal scheme has made an important contribution to higher school attendance, better child nutrition and more effective learning. Midday meals also help to break the barriers of class and caste by imparting to children of diverse backgrounds a habit of sharing meals.
No conditionalities can be imposed on this critical entitlement of Indian children. Making Aadhaaar compulsory for the midday meal would serve no purpose, and is bound to disrupt instead of helping this important programme. Further, this move is a violation of Supreme Court orders.
In a series of orders, the Supreme Court has made it clear that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for any services to which people are otherwise entitled. It has also made it clear that the Aadhaar Act does not supersede these orders, until such time as the Court settles the issue of compatibility of Aadhaar with the right to privacy.
During the last few years, Aadhaar has been made compulsory for a growing list of welfare schemes, under the garb of making them more effective. In fact, this imposition has led to serious disruptions, such as elderly people without Aadhaar being bumped off pension lists, NREGA workers being denied their wages due to Aadhaar seeding errors and PDS cardholders being deprived of their food rations because of technical glitches with Aadhaar-based biometric authentication. The government has paid no attention to the mounting evidence of these disruptive effects. Reason: the real purpose of this drive is to put pressure on people to enrol with Aadhaar. The need of the hour is to stop this rampage, not to extend it further, least of all to programmes like midday meals that are critical for the wellbeing of Indian children.
The right to food campaign demands immediate withdrawal of the illegal notification seeking to make Aadhaar compulsory for midday meals. It also calls on state governments to desist from implementing this illegal notification.