February 12, 2018 -
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has issued a statement stressing that the Aadhaar Act clearly and universally bans denial of essential services from its public distribution system (PDS), despite media reports of hospitalization and medical treatment being denied. The agency also threatened to take “strict action” against departments unlawfully denying essential benefits, and encouraged individuals to make use of the complaint process if necessary.
Essential services and benefits under Aadhaar include school admission and rations, in addition to medical help and hospitalization.
“The statement said that Section 7 of Aadhaar Act 2016 has clear provision for no exclusion – no denials,” the UIDAI says in the statement. “Aadhaar enables people to establish their identity so that they receive their entitlements and exercise their rights without any fear of being excluded. However, there have been some media reports that some service providers are denying essential and other services for want of Aadhaar. Such violations are punishable under respective laws of the land.”
The Cabinet Secretariat also issued instructions in December reiterating that organizations are expected to make use of the existing guidelines for extending benefits to beneficiaries using alternative mechanisms if the beneficiary does not have an Aadhaar number, or Aadhaar authentication fails.
The denial of essential services due to a lack or failure of Aadhaar identification is the latest in a series of controversies which have dogged the ambitious identity program. Aadhaar is facing a constitutional challenge, even as the government is being urged to consider expanding its use to include voting ID and financial services. The system is still a work in progress, and as previously reported, UIDAI has taken steps to address privacy concerns, and plans to add facial recognition to the program.