The Telegraph
Friday , April 21 , 2017

More time to tie meals to Aadhaar

- Enrolment deadline for kids set to be extended

New Delhi, April 20: The Centre is extending the deadline for linking the school midday meal and 100-day rural job schemes to Aadhaar, faced with mounting criticism and the spectre of exclusion of beneficiaries because of poor enrolment under the identification project.

The human resource development ministry is likely to push back to August-end the June 30 deadline to link the midday meal scheme to Aadhaar numbers.

The rural development ministry has extended the deadline for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to September 30 from March 31, sources have said.

The HRD ministry had issued a notification on February 28 asking children enrolled in elementary classes in government and aided schools to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar cards.

Those who do not have the cards will have to apply for Aadhaar enrolment by June 30 so that they can continue to get the midday meal, the notification said.

Of the 100 million beneficiaries of the scheme, nearly 80 million children did not have Aadhaar cards when the notification was issued. The notification said the state governments would provide all assistance and organise Aadhaar enrolment camps.

The ministry's assessment is that the target of 100 per cent Aadhaar coverage by June 30 may not be possible. So it has moved a proposal to extend the deadline to August 31.

Ajay Tirkey, a joint secretary in the HRD ministry handling the meal scheme, wrote to all state governments last week asking them to furnish information on enrolment so far.

"The notification for the extension of the deadline could be issued very soon," a senior official said.

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and food rights groups have criticised the Centre for making Aadhaar mandatory.

Aparajita Sarangi, the joint secretary in the rural development ministry handling the 100-day job scheme, said the deadline had been extended to September 30. There are 100 million active workers under the MGNREGA, which assures at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

"The labourers can show any document, including their job cards, to get work. Now the target is to ensure 100 per cent Aadhaar coverage by September 30," Sarangi said.

Civil society activists such as Nikhil Dey and Kamayani Swami had said yesterday that the bank accounts of 54 per cent MGNREGA workers were not linked to Aadhaar.

Sarangi said the ministry had started a survey of 54 million households of casual labourers to find out whether all of them had received job cards. Ten per cent of households have been surveyed. Around 1.72 lakh will be issued job cards.

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