In March 2022, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development told states that only those children and mothers who are registered at anganwadi centres through Aadhaar will be entitled to Supplementary Nutrition.

Representative of a mother and child with their heads covered with a cloth: Union govt to make Aadhaar mandatory for kids, mothers at anganwadis, says reportImage for representation/PTI
news Nutrition Thursday, June 30, 2022 - 15:05

The Union government is reportedly urging states to link Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries of Anganwadi services, with the intention of making Aadhaar linking compulsory to provide take-home ration (THR) and other sources of nutrition for children and mothers. The government has also indicated that funds allocated to states for nutrition programmes will henceforth depend on the number of beneficiaries whose Aadhaar details are registered at anganwadi centres. The Reporters’ Collective in Article14 has reported that according to official correspondence and guidelines of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, earlier in March 2022, states were told that only those beneficiaries who are registered at anganwadi centres, with mandatory possession of Aadhaar card and submission of Aadhaar number at the time of registration, will be entitled to Supplementary Nutrition. 

Supplementary Nutrition is given to children aged six months to six years, and pregnant and lactating mothers, under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme. This includes take-home rations and hot cooked meals provided at anganwadi centres to children and mothers. There are concerns that making Aadhaar linking compulsory will deny nutrition to lakhs of ICDS beneficiaries including children. 

Recently on June 23, the Union government once again urged states to expedite the process of linking Aadhaar details of beneficiaries in the Poshan Tracker App, which tracks beneficiaries of anganwadi centres and services delivered by anganwadi workers, according to The Reporters' Collective. The WCD Ministry in its letter says that beneficiary details will be allowed to be added or edited at the block level until July 15, with the purpose of expediting Aadhaar seeding. 

According to The Reporters' Collective, the guidelines sent to states by the WCD Ministry in March 2022 on the Union government’s POSHAN Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission said, “Only those beneficiaries who are registered at the AWC (Anganwadi Centre) are entitled to receive Supplementary Nutrition. The beneficiaries must compulsorily be in possession of Aadhaar card and shall submit Aadhaar number at the time of registration under Anganwadi Services Scheme at AWC.” The guidelines also reportedly said that beneficiaries would be required to carry their Aadhaar cards to the anganwadi centre every time they went to collect rations or food. 

Earlier in November 2021, the WCD Ministry had asked states to update Aadhaar details of all ICDS beneficiaries in the Poshan Tracker by December 15, 2021, and that future allocation of funds under the Supplementary Nutrition programme and food grains under the Wheat Based Nutrition Programme would be made on the basis of this data. 

In 2018, the Supreme Court while upholding the constitutionality of the Aadhaar, had said that no child could be denied the benefit of any scheme for not producing an Aadhaar number. According to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) data, only 23% of children under five years of age had Aadhaar as of March 31, 2022, the Article14 story points out. In a report from April 2022, the Comptroller and Auditor General pulled up UIDAI for issuing Aadhaar to children below five years of age based on the biometrics of their parents and asked it to “explore alternate ways to capture uniqueness of biometric identity for minor children below five years.” 

Meanwhile, responding to the report, the Women and Child Development Ministry has said that a child's Aadhaar card is not mandatory for availing of the benefits of the Supplementary Nutrition scheme. However, the mother's biometric card must be used to register on the Poshan Tracker app to access the scheme, it said.  The WCD Ministry insisted the Aadhar details of children are not mandatory and the Ministry is ensuring that the benefits of the nutrition scheme are delivered using the Aadhaar of the mother.

"A media report claims that the Aadhar card of children is mandatory for availing the benefits of the POSHAN scheme#PIBFactCheck...This claim is #fake, the Aadhar card of children is not mandatory, the Aadhar ID of the mother is required for the Poshan Tracker," the PIB tweeted.

The WCD Ministry recently proposed that the Anganwadi services should be digitised through the Poshan tracker to keep a tab on the nutrition access of the children moving across states. "When you move from one place to another, it becomes easier for beneficiaries to identify you as part of the programme as a whole and that is why when we are proposing to the states that you universalise Poshan access … we are riding on the Aadhar linkage of the beneficiary," an official had said earlier this month, according to PTI.

With PTI inputs

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