Quite deservedly, making Aadhaar compulsory for midday meals in government schools as recently notified by the Ministry of Human Resource Development has attracted the expected criticism. Other than forcing children to get enrolled under Aadhaar, this notification serves no clear purpose. Similar violations and attacks on citizen s rights has happened elsewhere as well. For example, take National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 and women s maternity entitlements,whereby unless covered by maternity schemes in formal sector, every pregnant woman is entitled to maternity benefits of Rs. 6000. While the Economic Survey 2015-16 made a strong case for maternal and early-life health programmes, this wasnt followed in Union Budget 2016-17 where no provision were made for maternity entitlements. Similarly, another important programme, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) faced Budget cuts so much so that the government s own Union minister criticized it. And now the latest target is midday meal scheme with budget cuts and Aadhar linked compulsion. Now the plans seems afoot to phase out Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), a scheme of conditional cash transfers aimed at promoting institutional deliveries. It is being planned to be “subsumed” under the maternity benefit scheme from next year.
And now Aadhaar is being made compulsory for all these schemes - Janani Suraksha Yojana, ICDS, midday meals scheme, maternity benefits etc. And this is blatant disregard for Supreme Court orders. The government needs to realize the importance of nurturing the demographic dividend.