New Delhi, March 7: By making Aadhaar mandatory for children obtaining the midday meal scheme, the government appears to be in a hurry to enroll a particular number of people so as to attain an administrative goal. It is the right of every child to get nutritious food? We, as tax payers do not mind if some amount goes towards feeding children.
On Saturday, the ministry of human resource development announced that the midday meal would no longer be free for children without an Aadhaar card. The rule was made applicable to the cook cum helpers as well. Further it was stated that children must be enrolled in the Aadhar scheme by June 30, if they were to get a free meal.
Can the right to eat be linked to an Aadhaar number? The new rule only goes on to show that the government wants to attain a certain number of enrollments at the cost of children's food. Denying a child food under the pretext that he or she does not have an Aadhaar number would not just be in violation of the Supreme Court's observation, but also the Right to Food Act.
The midday meal scheme was introduced by the government so that children in government schools get nutritious food. This is a flagship programme of the government and it is unfortunate that it is being linked to an Aadhaar number.
In this context one must go back to the Supreme Court's judgment of 2014 on the issue. The SC had said that in the overall scheme of things, the Aadhaar card would not be mandatory and no person shall be deprived of any service for want of an Aadhaar number in case he or she is otherwise eligible or entitled.
In 2015, the SC reiterated that the Aadhaar card scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by the court.
The government, however, justifies its decision by stating that the Aadhaar cards were necessary to make the process smoother. Services would become transparent, easier and smoother, the government argued. In this context, the question that needs to be asked is should the government have waited for a final verdict by the Supreme Court before slapping such an unjust rule on the children who are billed as the future of the country.