Sunil Sethi: People of no fixed address

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 21:02 hrs

pWorkers returning to their jobs in metros from remote villages in Bihar and Jharkhand have lately been complaining that they are barred from boarding trains unless they show sufficient identification including proof of residence in cities Whether this is a run-up to the Aadhaar scheme for direct cash transfers launched by the government with fanfare or an effort to check uncontrolled urban migration is not clear But the demand alongside a sense of insecurity among the vast unorganised labour force for some sort of empehchan patra emidentity proof is growingppThese are mostly people of no fixed address &mdash workers on construction sites in domestic employment or in small trade people you encounter daily Earlier this year when the local residents&rsquo welfare association ran a month-long and relatively well-organised Aadhaar enrolment camp there were many such people in the queues for biometric tests They were firmly weeded out for inadequate proof of tenure &mdash no electricity bill voting card or bank account At the regional passport office applicants are similarly eliminated Are these people expected to return to their villages and hometowns to hang around waiting for the Unique Identification Authority to set up shop If Delhi alone records an in-migration of about 25 million every decade and an estimated 30 per cent of its inhabitants live in slums it will be a long shot before they can lay their hands on pensions education and healthcare benefits delivered in cash via Aadhaar cardsppIn the old days before Delhi achieved new levels of prosperity the only recourse people of no fixed address had for finding an identity was the ration card an entitlement of grain and sugar through the public distribution system Ration cards were easy to fix for a small pay-off &mdash but they enabled urban migrants to get on to electoral rolls equally easy to penetrate through the good offices of political parties in search of vote banks As a vote-catching ploy for 2014 the Aadhaar pilot scheme sounds good as a reality it may be harder to get off the ground Reports from some of the 51 districts earmarked for initial coverage confirm that many village clusters had never heard of a bank so direct bank transfers of subsidies may be easier said than doneppI recently tried to help a person of no fixed address though he held a embona fide emvoter&rsquos card and driving licence open a bank account Despite my emsifarish emand assurance of a guaranteed minimum deposit the manager asked for his PAN card When I protested at the absurdity of such a demand he scrutinised the empehchan patras emin hand Bewilderingly the driving licence had been issued in Nagaland How an applicant from district Darbhanga unable to point out Nagaland on a map let alone having ever been there acquired such a document was anybody&rsquos guess He failed to open an account and soon afterwards lost his job Any migrant to a city will tell you that he doesn&rsquot depend on banks to remit money home but well-oiled alternate emhawala emnetworksppAadhaar could help change all that Except the unique identity UID project hasn&rsquot got round to addressing how it will track down India&rsquos floating millions or trickier still several million non-Indians afloat in the country Nearly a dozen states from Uttarakhand to Arunachal Pradesh share fairly porous borders with Nepal Myanmar and Bangladesh with a largely unaccounted &ndash and possibly unaccountable &ndash population How will they be discountedppThe prime minister hailed the Aadhaar project of direct cash handouts to the poor as a &ldquopioneering initiative&rdquo and he&rsquos right Rooting hard for the scheme Jairam Ramesh calls it a &ldquogame changer&rdquo and he&rsquos wrong As an electoral game it may be too late And it will be later still before people of no fixed address can carry home the cash p

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