In a major change of policy, the BJP-led government in Assam has given its nod on the issue of Aadhaar cards in the state which was stalled for three years.
Parliament affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary has informed the state assembly that the state general administration department will carry out the exercise while the home department will monitor the process.
Aadhaar card is a 12-digit unique identification number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data. So far, it has been issued only in Sonitpur, Nagaon and Golaghat in the state. According to available records, around 6.6 percent of the total population of the state have been issued the card so far while the enrolment rate in the rest of the country has been nearly 90 percent.
The earlier Congress regime was not too keen to extend the project to all the districts while the BJP was worried that illegal immigrants would end up being issued Aadhaar cards which would further their claim to citizenship.
The BJP was of the view that updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would first have to be completed in Assam for the Aadhaar cards to be issued. This was similar to the stance adopted by pressure groups, like the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU), which have been consistently making a case for identification and expulsion of illegal migrants from the state.
Patowary, however, said that there was no need to wait for completion of NRC update since Aadhaar was not a proof of citizenship. He clarified that a person would not be considered a citizen if his name was not in the updated NRC.
The rationale, he added, behind the government’s decision was to put an end to the problems being faced by people staying outside the state. Aadhaar is considered vital since it will be linked to access of subsidy from government schemes and made mandatory for banks accounts, LPG connections etc.
Updating the NRC is also considered essential for identification of illegal migrants in the state but it has been tardy with deadlines being missed several times. In a further twist to the exercise, the Supreme Court and Guwahati High Court have said that the the residency certificates issued by village panchayat secretaries will no longer be considered a valid link document for NRC. It is estimated that around 48 lakh applicants have only the documents issued by village panchayats. This apart, the apex court will soon hear petitions from several organisations in the state who have made a case for shifting the cut off year for citizenship in the state from 1971 to 1951.
In the Northeast, Meghalaya is another state where the issue of Aadhaar cards has been sluggish a few local groups opposed it. Tripura and Sikkim have registered the maximum progress with more than 90 percent of the population already been covered. Around 68.8 percent of the population in Manipur has received the card; 65.3 percent in Arunachal Pradesh; 55.5 percent in Nagaland and 62.3 percent in Mizoram.
Updated Date: May 13, 2017 10:58 AM