November 5, 2013
LPG subsidy via Aadhar – Government violates Supreme Court order – we demand immediate rollback
West Bengal woke up on November 1, 2013 to the news of an official notification sent by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to the LPG dealerships, which came into effect that very day. LPG customers in the 3 districts of Kolkata, Howrah and Coochbehar would need an Aadhar card to avail their LPG subsidy. Further, by Feb 1, 2014 customers without Aadhar numbers would need to buy their LPG cylinders at the prevailing market rate (currently about Rupees 984 compared to Rupees 412.5 for subsidized cylinders).
What is shocking to citizens is that merely a month ago on September 23, 2013, the Honourable Supreme Court of India passed a verdict in response to a PIL seeking a stay on the implementation of the UID/Aadhar Scheme, stating that enrollment under the Aadhar scheme is completely voluntary and not necessary to avail essential government services. The UIDAI along with the oil PSUs and the government have filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on Oct 15, 2013 BUT the SC has NOT reviewed its earlier verdict yet. Hence, the current notification by the Petroleum Ministry is completely illegal and in total violation of the SC’s verdict.
It is necessary to review the history of the Aadhar programme in the context of the card not having a mandate for universal coverage in India. Aadhar/UID was set up in July 2009 but by late 2011 the Home Ministry expressed serious reservations that the enrolment process was not as foolproof as the National Population Registry (NPR), a mandatory register under the Home ministry, which enrolled citizens using a strict house-to-house canvassing method involving community verification. In December 2011, a 31-member Parliamentary Committee categorically rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, the proposed law under which UIDAI and Aadhaar were to function, and even suggested that the data already collected be transferred to the NPR. Finally a compromise was reached in January 2012 where UIDAI would directly enrol another 40 crores people (in addition to the 20 crores it already had) across 16 states while the NPR would handle the remaining 60 crores in the other states. As a result, the entire process of delivering a unique identity to all citizens has been delayed and Aadhar does not have universal coverage in India yet. In a country like ours where illiteracy is rampant and the average citizen is already burdened with different cards for different purposes- voter ID card, PAN card, BPL card – another card only serves to burden the common citizen.
In West Bengal, Aadhar cards have not reached all the people so how can this card be possibly used as a means to get LPG subsidy? What happens to people who have not yet received their cards for no fault of their own? Moreover, the UIDAI is unable to guarantee that all the people of these 3 districts will receive their cards by February 1, 2014! This government is cracking joke after joke at the expense of the poor – first by limiting the number of subsidized LPG cylinders and then by trying to deny even the few subsidized cylinders by asking for a mandatory Aadhar card that has not reached the people!! The All India Trinamool Congress demands that the government fully complies with the verdict of the Honourable Supreme Court immediately and withdraws this notification.