Will 2018 Be the year of Aadhaar-linked deaths?

The great sacrifice of Havaldar Laxman Dass has gone in vain. His wife, a war widow, died because a Pvt hospital refused her medical attention as her son couldn’t furnish her Aadhaar number

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media
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Raman Swamy

Havaldar Laxman Dass died for his country. His widow Shakuntala Devi died because she did not have an Aadhaar card.

He was killed in action during the Kargil conflict in June 1999. She died on Friday after a private hospital in Sonepat refused to register her as a patient because her son was not able to furnish the number of her Aadhaar identity.

The doctors at Tulip Hospital have come out with ingenious logic to defend themselves. “She did not have any Aadhaar card. So we could not complete the PAP (patient admission procedure). Since she was not admitted, she was not given any treatment. Since she was not under our treatment, how can we be blamed for her death?”

The Haryana government has come out with its own ingenious logic: “The matter has been brought to our notice. Our Chief Minister, Manoharlal Khattar, has said he would look into the matter. So far no inquiry has been ordered. Only if inquiry is conducted and completed, we can expect to have the report. Only after that can we take all necessary action against the guilty persons, if any”.

  • In other words - No Aadhaar, no documentation; no documentation, no treatment; no treatment, no responsibility for death.
  • b) No inquiry, no report; no report, no action.

All very logical. In mathematics, it is called QED, which is a Latin phrase ‘Quod Erat Demonstrandum’, meaning “thus it has been demonstrated”.

Nobody is bothered about the basic fallacy in the logic. The basic premise that Aadhaar card is compulsory, is factually incorrect. The direction of the Supreme Court of India is clear - Aadhaar shall not be made mandatory till March 31, 2018. The matter is pending before apex court and the next hearing will be in the middle of January.

Till then, no hospital – especially a private hospital – has any business or right to insist on biometric verification before admitting a patient. Therefore, Tulip Hospital is guilty of callousness and negligence, QED.

Similarly, Manoharlal Khattar has no business or right to say he will look into the matter. There is nothing to look into. It is an open and shut case. Patient refused admission and treatment due to absence of Aadhaar number - illegal. QED. Contempt of Supreme Court direction. QED.

If the Haryana Government had issued any orders to all hospitals, state-owned or privately-run, that Aadhaar number is a precondition to patient registration, then it should have withdrawn or rescinded such orders after the Supreme Court extended the deadline till March 31. If the concerned department failed to do so, that is what requires an inquiry. Khattar should have said: I will order a probe into why my government has not yet withdrawn the instructions regarding mandatory Aadhaar. That he did not say so, is a matter of acute concern and suspicion.

Manoharlal Khattar should be worried and concerned about another aspect of the death of a widow of a Kargil martyr. Praise soldiers and ex-servicemen has been at the very top of the agenda of his leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. All through his 43 months in power, Modi has claimed that his government would never let the great patriotic sacrifice of the brave men who laid down their lives in the defence of the motherland go in vain.

The great patriotic sacrifice of Havaldar Laxman Dass of the 8th Jat Regiment in the Muskoh Valley in Kargil on June 6, 1999 has gone in vain. His wife, a war widow, suffering from a heart condition and also from symptoms of lung cancer, was not given medical attention when it was most needed. She died. The gallant Havaldar’s memory has been dishonoured. The Prime Minister’s solemn pledge has been made to look like just another bit of empty rhetoric.

The Modi government’s imposition of mandatory biometric verification is not restricted to ‘No Aadhaar, No Medical Treatment’. It also extends to innocent children. In primary and secondary schools in various states, the inflexible rule is - “No Aadhaar, No Mid-day Meal” and “No Aadhaar, No Rations”.

Take the case of little Sontoshi Kumari, a 11 year old In Jharkhand. Her family have been refused ration for several months because their ration card was not linked with Aadhaar. As the school was closed, she did not receive the Midday meal either. She died of starvation. The Jharkahand Chief Minister has promised to “look into the matter”.

Even in West Bengal, a non-BJP ruled State, central government orders are orders. Aadhaar linkage has been made a precondition for children to get food in schools. In gross violation of a child’s right to food and nutrition.

An activist organisation, Paschimbanga khet Majoor Samity, has come out with chilling proof that that even in Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool raj, the Project Director of the Mid-day Meal scheme has blindly enforced the Aadhaar dictat. The State School Education Department passed an order (Memo no: 522-ES(CMDMP)MDMS- 11/2017) on December 5, instructing all schools to collect detailed Aadhaar information of each and every student. The logical next step by the Central Government will be to stop food where no Aadhaar linking has been done, as is being done in other states. There will be thousands of children who will suffer, perhaps even die of malnutrition.

This is despite Mamata Banerjee’s repeated condemnation of Aadhaar linkage. In October, her Government even moved the Supreme Court against the Centre’s move to link all social welfare schemes with Aadhaar. Yet her Education Department has made the biometric number mandatory for tender children from abjectly impoverished families to produce the Card or else starve.

In recent months there have been reports of about starvation deaths in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka due to inability to link ration cards to Aadhaar. A study of school going children in 2015 done by National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau showed that “among 24,108 recruited students aged between six and thirteen years, prevalence of under-nutrition was alarmingly high (about 23 percent). Over half of the students (54 percent) were at risk of developing malnutrition.

As the new year dawns, the frightening question is - Will 2018 be the Year of Aadhar Deaths?

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