TT, Calcutta, Aug. 16: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today said Trinamul MPs would meet the Prime Minister soon to protest the Centre’s alleged efforts to make Aadhaar cards mandatory by September for direct benefit-transfer schemes.
“Our MPs will meet the Prime Minister before August 23 to let him know about the state’s problems…. The states should have been consulted before making Aadhaar cards mandatory after (August) 31,” Mamata said this evening before leaving Nabanna.
Although the chief minister did not explain the “problems”, sources in the state government said she was worried because only about 60 per cent of Bengal’s population of 9.2 crore had Aadhaar cards.
A senior Bengal government official said more than 2.5 crore beneficiaries under various schemes, including the 100-day job plan, scholarships and old-age pension, would be affected if Aadhaar cards were made mandatory.
However, the Supreme Court had observed that Aadhaar cards cannot be made mandatory for benefits under central schemes. In January, the Centre passed a law saying Aadhaar cards would be used during the transfer of benefits but in case a person did not have the document, other identity proofs would also be accepted.
The Bengal government had told the Centre that Aadhaar cards should not be made essential immediately because more than 700 gram panchayat areas in the state did not have banks.
“But the argument was not encouraged by the Centre,” an official said.
Four months ago, the Centre had urged the state government to link Aadhaar cards with job cards provided under the 100-day scheme. “But little progress has been made on this and so the chief minister is worried,” an official said.
Sources said the state government was “most worried” about scholarship schemes.
“In Bengal, more than 22 lakh minority students get pre-matric scholarships from the Centre every year. Unfortunately, most of these students don’t have Aadhaar cards,” the official said.