FIVE AADHAAR cards wrapped in a transparent plastic bag, tucked away in a suitcase, the key hidden underneath the pillow — that’s the safeguard that Ranjana Sonawane had in place, much before the Supreme Court weighed in.
Inside her thatched hut in Tembhli village, 415 km from Mumbai, when Sonawane, India’s first Aadhaar recipient, shares her journey with the card over the last eight years, she illustrates what it was always meant for. She has used it only to access services — as finally mandated by the apex court Wednesday.
“We are less educated, we thought our life will be better with Aadhaar. But we use it only for four-five schemes, otherwise it lies in the suitcase,” she says.
Full Text | Supreme Court Aadhaar judgment
Sonawane, 48, was the first of 10 villagers offered the Aadhaar on September 29, 2010, by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “A few other residents here and I were chosen for a test in a factory nearby. They asked me about Aadhaar and I told them whatever I knew,” she says. Days later, she was told that she and her son Hitesh would be the first to get the card.
The ID proof cost Sonawane Rs 1,200 — for enlarging and framing two photos of the two receiving their cards. But these days, she says, the cards come out of the suitcase only once a month, to buy 10 kg wheat and 15 kg rice.“Life has not changed. We did not get employment earlier, we don’t get it today,” she says.
“I did get a subsidised cylinder seven months ago with my Aadhaar. I thought Aadhaar will make the process of getting scholarship for my children easier, but it’s been years since that money last came,” she says. Her youngest son got the annual scholarship of Rs 1,000, under a central government scheme for tribal students, just once in Class II three years ago, she says. The two elder sons, now 15 and 18, got it once, too, when they were in Class I.
After getting Aadhaar, Sonawane opened five bank accounts — three for the children, one each for Sadashiv and herself — after officials told her all benefits would directly reach her bank if she linked the card. Today, the children’s accounts have zero balance. Sonawane’s account has Rs 580 and Sadashiv’s just over Rs 1,000, which the couple deposited.
Across the Kuchha road is the zila parishad school, where teacher N H Kohli says that about 178 forms for scholarships were filled in 2016-17 and Aadhaar cards made to avail the benefit. “But the money is yet to come in the accounts. This year, when 41 children took admission in Class I, the teachers again got the Aadhaar of 30 children made. You never know for which scheme they will ask for an Aadhaar. It is safe to be prepared,” Kohli says.
A few huts ahead, anganwadi worker Suman Panpatil says she has ensured that all 105 children and 23 mothers registered with her have an Aadhaar. “We were told it’s compulsory to link Aadhaar for nutrition schemes,” she says.
Tembhli residents say Aadhaar has removed the hassle of carrying multiple ID documents but has not eliminated red-tapism in getting benefits.
Sonawane says she had submitted her Aadhaar details to the tehsildar for funds to build a toilet under Swachh Bharat. “But they said my name is not on the list. If I give my Aadhaar, is that not enough?” she asks. Without assistance, the toilet will cost them Rs 12,000, which they cannot afford.
The name on her 12-digit Aadhaar card is also misspelt: “Sonwane Sadashiv Ranjna”. “But to correct it, I will have to pay Rs 200, what’s the use?” she asks.
On Tuesday, Sonawane and Sadashiv took a round of the papaya, banana, sugarcane and cotton farms nearby to look for work but returned jobless. On Monday, both earned Rs 100 each from a cotton farm. “Today, I have cooked dal and rice. But we will eat less so that the children can eat more once they return from school,” she says.