India’s federal government has declared that it is now necessary to have an Aadhaar card to apply for jobs through a government employment program, according to an article by Bagish Jha in The Times of India. Now, job-seekers who want to apply via the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) must have the state-issued ID cards connected to the country’s biometric citizen registry.
The move has upset certain sectors of the population, who complain that many of the country’s citizens don’t yet have Aadhaar cards. The article quotes one activist as alleging that no new work has been generated through MGNREGA since September of last year. Jha suggests that in the city of Barwani, for example, approximately 1500 citizens have filed for unemployment benefits.
Of course, the government’s new Aadhaar requirement is presumably an effort to encourage people to get signed up for the registry. The Aadhaar program, along with its citizen registry, is one of the biggest biometric initiatives in the world, with the Indian government seeking to use it for a range of functions, from monitoring the work attendance of public servants to cutting down graft in the administration of social welfare. With this MGNREGA situation, the efforts unfortunately seem to be backfiring, cutting people off from government help instead of improving their access; but on the other hand, there are bound to be bumps in the road in the rollout of such an ambitious program, and when it’s fully implemented it could prove invaluable in promoting access to government for those most in need.
April 13, 2015 – by Alex Perala