The Supreme Court questioned the Centre this week on the prospect of homeless people failing to get access to social welfare schemes without an Aadhaar, and asked how they could get Aadhaar card without having a permanent address.
The SC’s questioning comes against the backdrop of the government making all efforts to convince the court that the linking of Aadhar to social welfare schemes was for the benefit of people.
A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Depak Gupta noted that lakhs of homeless would be unable get access to the benefits of welfare schemes and may continue to suffer if governments insisted for Aadhaar. On being informed that permanent address was a must for people to get Aadhaar, the bench said that such a policy may mean that the homeless are “not-existent for the governments”.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta requested the court for time to take instructions from the UDAI. Mehta, however, highlighted that most often urban homeless people had permanent address in rural areas and they turned homeless only while shifting to cities. He saidthat they could avail of the benefits “after getting Aadhaar from their original place of residence.”
Failure to Provide Shelters For Homeless
The apex court’s questions came while hearing a PIL regarding the lack of shelter homes for urban homeless people.
The court has ordered the constitution of committees across all states and Union Territories to supervise the construction of shelter homes. It has asked the Centre as well as the petitioner to submit a list of people who may be entrusted with job of monitoring the construction of shelter homes in states.
According to the 2011 census, India has nearly 17, 73,040 homeless people with 52.9 % of them in urban areas.
Panel Suggested To Monitor Construction of Shelters
A three-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court and headed by a former Delhi High Court judge Justice (Retired) Kailash Gambhir warned that over 90 per cent of urban homeless people had no shelter since all state governments have “pathetically” failed in setting up shelter homes.
The panel’s report reviewed the current status of shelter homes in the different states and found that local governments were not using the funds released by the Centre to construct shelter homes leading to homeless people in urban centres being forced to live in roadside, railway platforms or under flyovers.
Additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni, appearing on behalf of the Centre, suggested that the court to appoint a committee in every state under a retired high court judge for monitoring the implementation of the scheme.
He pointed out that given the size of the country as well as the number of sanctioned shelters (1200) a central committee may not be able to monitor the situation effectively.
The bench has agreed to the Centre’s suggestion to ensure better monitoring of the scheme.
The NULM scheme was launched in 2013 by Centre with the objective of providing shelter to homeless people in urban areas. Since then, funds of over Rs 2000 crore has been allocated but the homeless continue to languish on streets with no roof over their heads.