Sukanya, a tailor from Channapattana in Karnataka, was denied ration because she had not linked her ration card to Aadhaar. As someone who does not take things lying down, Sukanya requested the ration shop owner and the tehsildar, only to be told by both officials that she should link her ration card to Aadhaar card “because everyone was doing so”.
A defiant Sukanya went to court in February this year. The Karnataka High Court then passed an interim order that directed the Food and Civil Supplies department to not insist on an Aadhaar card link and provide subsidised foodgrain to Sukanya.
Lalithamma, a resident of Begur village in Chikmagalur district, was denied ration, along with fifty other people as they had not linked her ration card to Aadhaar card. When Lalithamma along with others from Begur made the trip to Tarikere taluk to ask authorities about this, they were told that they should link their ration card to Aadhaar cards. “It costs 100 rupees to make the journey to Tarikere taluk. In the last four kilometres, there are no buses and we have to walk,” she said.
Chowdappa, from Chintamani in Chikballapur district, was denied ration along with 15 people from the village, because they had not linked their ration card to Aadhaar card.
Jyoti, a resident of Belagavi, said that her children were denied scholarship and even though they applied for Aadhaar card four times, they were rejected.
Padma, a resident of Bengaluru was also denied ration because the bio metric machine did not identify her fingerprints. “The ration shop owner knows me very well but the bio metric machine does not identify my finger prints, so I have not been getting ration food for the past two years,” she said.
Bharati, Secretary of the Karnataka Sex Workers Union, said that when police arrest sex workers they demand Aadhaar card and if they do not produce it, then it results in further harassment.
Like Sukanya, Lalithamma, Chowdappa, Jyoti, Padma and Bharati, over twenty people from various districts of Karnataka shared their stories of struggle and helplessness, at a public hearing organised by The Right to Food campaign in Bengaluru.
Though the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to not insist on linking ration card to Aadhaar, after the centre’s directive in February, the testaments from various people show that ration shops continued to deny them essentials.
“The testimonies today prove that the Aadhaar project was never meant as an identity project, but rather a project for identification. They (central government) want to identify you. They don’t want you to have an identity. How many people have to die before they (central government) realise that it is not working and needs to change,” asked Usha Ramanathan, a legal expert.
Much of the anguish was directed at Krishnamurthy, Chairman of Food and Civil Supplies Corporation, who was also briefly present at the event and admitted that there are practical difficulties as the officials in charge of the public delivery systems had to follow the rules set by the government.
The public hearing and the jury led by Ramanthan, Raghu KC, a food and nutrition expert, Clifton Rozario, lawyer, and Sylvia Karpagam, demanded that Aadhaar should be delinked from essential services.
In what will come as a relief to lakhs of people, the Centre today instructed states to not deny PDS benefits to those who do not have Aadhaar or have not linked their ration cards to Aadhaar.