By Elton Gomes
After Nirmala Nishikant Dhumane, an Ahmednagar resident sought to know why her pension was withheld for want of an Aadhaar card, the Central Information Commission (CIC) stated that senior citizens without an Aadhaar card will not be denied pension. The EPFO (Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation) has also requested all pension-disbursing banks to not turn away senior citizens who do not have an Aadhaar card and are seeking pension in a circular released on Monday.
“The banks should ensure they have some special arrangements for pensioners who lack Aadhaar and not be in a position to travel to the bank or an Aadhaar enrolment centre because of health issues or old age,” the circular stated.
Many pensioners have reported being turned away and denied pension from banks for not having an Aadhaar card. In addition, there were complains of their Aadhaar fingerprint authentication being unsuccessful due to technical reasons. Banks will use alternate means of identification will be used, if required.
Aadhaar and the question of pension
There has been a lot of debate about the Aadhaar card becoming an indispensable part of Indians’ lives. As the government seeks to mandate the card, several ethical concerns have been raised over user information being compromised. Besides acting as an identity proof, the Aadhaar card can also be used to while seeking a new LPG cylinder connection, opening a bank account, or purchasing a new mobile phone.
The Supreme Court questioned the Centre after it sought to link Aadhaar with pensions. Furthermore, the SC stated that pension isn’t simply a subsidy. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A. K. Sikri, A. M. Khanwilkar, D. Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan questioned the Centre whether it would deny a person’s right to receiving pension for simply not having an Aadhaar card.
On March 23, the Supreme Court said that linking Aadhaar card to receive pensions is not mandatory.
Citing the example of his father, Justice Chandrachud said in an interview with NDTV“There are those old persons whose biometrics do not match with the Aadhaar data. Where do they go? Government must explain steps being taken to eliminate financial exclusion of legitimate beneficiaries.”
Difficulties faced by senior citizens
In the absence of definite guidelines from the Centre, Indian banks are choosing their own sets of rules to follow. A report in the Hindu mentioned that an elderly couple visited the State Bank of India, Saligramam branch, to submit their life certificate for their pension. However, they were told that their details had to be first updated online and then linked to their Aadhaar numbers. Moreover, the bank did not have any such facility where this linking could be done and the old couple was asked to visit a browsing centre with biometric scanners.
As the government continues extending its deadline for linking Aadhaar to other services, citizens are in a limbo as to what should be done.