After the recent notification on enrolment of schoolchildren who are provided midday meals in the Aadhaar database, the Centre is set to make it mandatory for children living in the 9000-odd orphanages across the country to be linked to Aadhaar.
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Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi told The Indian Express that all children living in orphanages are being linked to the Aadhaar database.
“Every nation should have one card that acts as their identity card…. In case there are instances of children going missing from orphanages, having their Aadhaar details acts as a protective device and makes it easier to us to track them,” she said.
A senior WCD ministry official said that the process of registering children in all orphanages/adoption homes is under way, and the 12-digit unique identification (UID) number linked to their biometrics will be issued soon. The official added that a recent ministry survey found that there are 9,000 such institutions with approximately 1 lakh children.
“We have decided that all children — either in adoption agencies or at juvenile homes — must be given an identity, and that identity is the Aadhaar card,” the official said. “The challenge with capturing biometrics of children, especially their fingerprints, is that they don’t get developed before a child is three years old. In such cases, the child would be issued an Aadhaar number and the biometrics would be taken when he or she is of the right age.”
The WCD ministry had recently also announced that it would link all street children to Aadhaar.
In another order, the Ministry of Labour and Employment on Monday issued a notification stating that all those who are eligible for benefits under the Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme are “required to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication” by June 30.
The HRD ministry had recently made the 12-digit UID number mandatory for midday meal schemes, leading to criticism from civil society groups and opposition parties, who called it a way to get children enrolled into the database without their informed consent after much of the adult population was coerced through various schemes. The backlash led the government to issue a statement on Tuesday, stating that while Aadhaar enrolment will continue, benefits would not be denied to anyone.
Reacting to the controversy, Maneka said, “We have to give everyone an identity card. Aadhaar is as good an identity as any. Every small town has shops that help people register for Aadhaar cards. We, too, have made it mandatory for our 24 lakh anganwadi workers.”
She said that Aadhaar linkage would be done in case of all beneficiaries of the maternity benefit scheme, which provides Rs 6,000 to pregnant and lactating women. The scheme is currently being run on a pilot basis in 53 of the country’s 650 districts, and has to be implemented as a universal scheme from this year.