Almost every developed country in the world has the responsibility of identifying its citizens so that the rights, privileges and the welfare benefits of such countries do not have to be extended also to people of other countries living there illegally, merely because a country’s system of identifying its citizens is not as perfect and reliable as it needs to be. Some countries solve the problem by issuing social security cards that are both proofs of identity and place of residence. They may have separate cards for the benefits that a welfare state bequeaths on its citizens, but in some cases the social security cards (or booklets) often serve as an omnibus proof of identity. In India, we have not had any means of proving one’s Indian identity for many years. For those who travelled abroad, the passport was a comprehensive proof of identity. But such people were a microscopically small part of the population. For many years, the rest of our population had no means of proving their identity that was accepted all over the country. Much later, we had the Aadhaar cards that all government organizations were bound to accept. What was worse, however, was that the government insisted on citizens producing their Aadhaar cards without making it possible for one and all to secure such cards without any difficulty. We are not aware of how easy or difficult it is to secure Aadhaar cards elsewhere in the country, but in Assam there is virtually no publicity on the part of the government to make people aware of how Aadhaar cards can be secured. One can very well imagine how difficult it must be for people in the rest of Assam to secure Aadhaar cards if the task is so difficult in Guwahati itself. In the city, very few people seem to know the location of the office where Aadhaar cards are issued and much less about the importance attached to them by the government. It is in this kind of a situation that the Supreme Court has done well to rule that all welfare benefits cannot be tied to the Aadhaar card. The apex court has ruled that the Aadhaar card cannot be mandatory to provide citizens the benefits of social welfare programmes such as pensions, provident fund, school midday meals and the rural job guarantee scheme. The Aadhaar card can, however, be made mandatory for the opening of bank accounts, or the issuance of driving licences. Considering the obsession with Aadhaar cards in certain sections of the government and the insistence on the card being produced by millions of people who have not yet maged to acquire it, the Supreme Court’s ruling has come at a proper time and will certainly help a lot of people who have not realized the importance of getting one merely because the publicity on the function and essentiality of Aadhaar cards has not been adequate.
Proving One's Identity