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The Hindu
The Hindu
Swathi Vadlamudi

Citizens wait endlessly at Aadhaar centres for updates

Fathima Bi, in her 50s, sat for a whole day in the dingy verandah in LB Nagar, which was totally hidden behind the a Navaratri pandal. Unless for the banner outside, one would easily miss this Aadhaar enrolment centre being run in a ramshackle building.

“I sat since 12 noon, yet my turn has not come,” she said, pointing towards an inner room where two persons sat in front of the computer, struggling with the biometrics of the applicants.

Ms. Fathima Bi came here taking off from her work as domestic help, in order to update her Aadhaar with her latest phone number. She was among the several applicants patiently waiting there for their turn.

“We issue tokens for an hour in the morning, and give time slots for the applicants. Still, it gets crowded very fast,” says the operator unwilling to go on record.

At Musarambagh, two persons sit outside the Aadhaar Seva Kendra inside the Metro Rail station, to check for Aadhaar card and the supporting documents before issuing the application form, and allowing entry inside. The security guard informs that mornings see serpentine queues for daily tokens, which are issued only between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Online slot booking is available, but few opt for it.

“At our centre, people wait since 5 a.m., though we open at 9 a.m. Many of them lose their wages for the day in order to get the Aadhar updated,” said P. Manish Kumar, an operator at Ibrahimpatnam.

Unusual crowds at the Aadhaar centres is a relatively recent phenomenon, partially owing to the misconception that December 14 is the deadline to update the credentials.

December 14 is indeed a deadline, but only for updating the Aadhaar online free of cost. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had reportedly issued an office memorandum extending the deadline from September 14 by three months.

One more reason for the queues is the mandatory eKYC for several central schemes including public distribution, and Ayushman Bharat.

“The Central government has made it mandatory to provide the phone number which is linked with Aadhaar, for availing monthly ration as well as the benefits under Ayushman Bharat. This is bringing enormous crowds to the service centres,” Mr. Manish Kumar says.

The number of enrolment centres, however, has come down drastically. Only about 400 centres remain now in Telangana State, from the 800-plus centres earlier.

“The Central government, intending to separate Aadhaar from Mee Seva Centres, issued directives in 2022 asking all the operators to work for salary instead of commission. We approached court against this order. Since then, the UIDAI has stopped reviving the accounts of the operators which get blocked due to any reason,” shared Baira Shankar, president of the Telangana MeeSeva Federation.

In 2018, the Supreme Court had held that Aadhaar could be used for delivery of welfare schemes, which enabled the state to seek Aadhaar linkage for PDS and other schemes.

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