Assam government finalising plan to issue Aadhaar cards; locals say UID must be based on NRC data
The BJP and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have demanded that the NRC must first publish the complete list before Aadhaar cards are issued.
As Assam continues to count its citizens, the government has also begun the process of fine-tuning the modalities for the issue of Aadhaar cards — something that was stalled amid concerns that its benefits would be reaped by foreign nationals. The thinking has changed now: Aadhaar could be a tool to track the movements of the aliens that was proving to be a challenging task for the government agencies. Some officials believe that since core services will be linked to the card, a large number will come forward to avail the facility including declared foreigners.
Principal secretary in the department of home and political affairs LS Changsan said that a plan was being finalised to implement Aadhaar and make it available to all residents in the state with no links to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Last Tuesday, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that biometric details of all people whose names were not included in the NRC would be obtained with the objective of preventing them from migrating to other states.
Reports claiming the movement of Bangladeshi nationals to different parts of the country have surfaced occasionally. More recently, a former police chief of Kerala was quoted by the media as saying that some migrants were hiding in the southern state after procuring documents from Assam. Aadhaar was issued in Assam for some months two years ago, and then had to be halted following protests from political parties and civil society groups.
The BJP and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) demanded that the NRC must first publish the complete list before Aadhaar cards are issued. This was similar to the stance adopted by the All-Assam Students' Union (AASU), which has been consistently making a case for identification and expulsion of illegal migrants from the state.
The project was revived last year by the government and the home department asked to monitor the process. In a couple of months, as many as 1,241 locations were identified across the state as Aadhaar Kendras for the distribution of cards. Deputy commissioners of all the districts were directed to supervise the process and appoint "verifiers" at every centre. Some banks had also begun the process of Aadhaar enrollment for their customers. And that was where everything was stuck again for a long time without any movement forward.
Information given by the government in the state Assembly reveals that only about eight percent of the total population of Assam has availed of Aadhaar so far in Sonitpur, Nagaon and Golaghat. In March 2017, the state government had also informed the Supreme Court of its inability to stick to the 31 March deadline for linking Aadhaar with other core services.
But the new urgency to implement the project could fuel another controversy since many civil society groups would lay more stress upon completion of the NRC. Advisor to AASU, Samujjal Bhattacharyya was categorical that Aadhaar must be based on the NRC. "What is the logic of giving Aadhaar when the NRC exercise is already on and monitored by Supreme Court? It's true that citizens working and studying outside the state are facing problems, but the government can definitely work out a mechanism to resolve this issue," he said.
Bhattacharyya’s views were echoed by Palash Changmai, general secretary of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Juba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), another prominent and radical student organisation in the state in the vanguard of the anti-foreigners agitation. He said that the group’s disagreement with the government’s decision on Aadhaar had been had been declared months ago. “Let the NRC be completed first. There is no reason to add more complexity to the process,” he noted.
Local groups fear that Aadhaar will allow the illegal migrants to have access to core services as the citizens which could be an additional hurdle to deport or shift them from the state to other locations. Possession of the card, they feel, could also be evidence in court to stall any attempt at evicting them from their homes.
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