The Telegraph
Thursday , July 13 , 2017

Bengal Aadhaar 'hold-up' before PM

New Delhi, July 12: The Bengal government has allegedly not been cooperating with the Union human resource development ministry in supplying data and an action plan on Aadhaar enrolment of school children for the midday meal scheme.

The Prakash Javadekar-led ministry has informed the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) about the alleged non-cooperation by the Mamata Banerjee government in the project to ensure 100 per cent Aadhaar enrolment of children, HRD ministry sources told The Telegraph.

The ministry is worried that other states may cite Bengal and delay the enrolment process beyond the August 31 deadline. School education secretary Anil Swarup last week held a review meeting with officials from 29 states, including Bengal, and four Union territories to take stock of the progress in Aadhaar enrolment.

While all the states have informed the Centre about their progress, the Bengal government has allegedly not responded to any of the letters sent by the Centre seeking data and its action plan on the enrolment. Swarup has written to the chief secretaries of 16 states, including Bengal, seeking their cooperation.

"Despite letters from the ministry to furnish detailed action plan to complete 100 per cent Aadhaar enrolment, no response from the government of West Bengal has been received," said Swarup's letter, dated July 6 and addressed to state chief secretary Basudeb Banerjee.

Around 1.24 crore children are enrolled in government schools in Bengal. In the letter, Swarup said Aadhaar enrolment would "enable us to eliminate proxy enrolment and provide the benefits of MDM (midday meal) scheme in a seamless manner".

Sources said Bengal officials had claimed at the July 4 meeting chaired by Swarup that Aadhaar enrolment data had been compiled and sent to the "competent authority" for approval before being submitted to the Union HRD ministry. The officials said approval had not come from the "competent authority", which they indicated was the chief minister.

Mamata has openly criticised the Union government for making Aadhaar cards or documents showing that an application had been made mandatoryfor the midday meal scheme.

The HRD ministry issued a notification on February 28 asking children enrolled in elementary classes to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar cards. Those who do not have the cards will have to apply for Aadhaar enrolment so that they can continue to get school meal, the ministry had said.

The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for the receipt of government benefits.

The PMO will take a decision on what should be done if the Bengal government continues to "deny" data and its action plan, HRD ministry official said.

"I earnestly suggest the Aadhaar Enrolment Campaign be given an added thrust by the government of West Bengal in a time-bound manner and be monitored personally at your level," Swarup's letter had said.

Swarup had urged the Bengal chief secretary to instruct state government officials to submit weekly progress reports along with the action plan to the HRD ministry.

Bengal government sources said 75 per cent of schoolchildren in the state had been enrolled under Aadhaar. However, midday meal project director of Bengal T.K. Adhikari told this paper that the Aadhaar data was yet to be compiled.

"We are not controlling Aadhaar. The home department has the data. I have sought the data. After receiving it, we will send it," Adhikari said over phone from Calcutta.

Swarup has also written to 15 other states where the Aadhaar enrolment of children is below 80 per cent. The enrolment is as low as 15 per cent in Nagaland, 23 per cent in Arunachal Pradesh, 25 per cent in Manipur, 26 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and 28 per cent in Odisha.

Nearly 100 million children eat midday meal in government and government-aided schools across the country.

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