The 31 March deadline for citizens to link their Aadhaar number to nearly 150 welfare schemes and services including pensions, rations and mid-day meals has been extended by three months, the government ordered on Wednesday.
The extension comes just days after the central government, already under fire from privacy campaigners, gave people time till 30 June to link their 12-digit Aadhaar number with their Permanent Account Number.
The fresh order comes just days after the Supreme Court declined to extend the deadline for welfare schemes, a decision that was widely criticised by rights campaigners because the court had given a reprieve to people for linking a range of services including bank accounts. The court has to decide but till it decides on whether the government’s demand for Aadhaar to be linked to private and public services is a violation of the right to privacy, the 12-digit unique number given to each citizen does not have to be linked to other services.
Wednesday’s order said the deadline, due to end in three days, was being pushed further to 30 June.
The Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, that runs the Aadhaar programme, had directed departments to give people time to get themselves an Aadhaar number and link it to various welfare schemes.
Government sources said these directives were primarily aimed at field level offices and departments that have been known to go on an overdrive and deny benefits to people.
“Otherwise, the Aadhaar law and the rules are clear that nobody can be denied benefits due to the absence of this number. If Aadhaar isn’t available, the government agency is mandated to make the facility for registration available to citizens and get them enrolled. But there have been cases in the past where overzealous officials have denied benefits,” a senior government official said.
But there have been other concerns with the implementation of the identification system.
In the Supreme Court, the petitioners have also expressed concern at the 88 per cent success rate of Aadhaar authentication in government systems.
“If the data of UIDAI says that there was only 88 per cent success rate of Aadhaar authentication, then it means that 12 per cent people are excluded from the benefits in schemes linked with Aadhaar. Twelve per cent failure is too high,” the lawyer argued, adding that almost 14 crore citizens cannot take benefits