New Delhi: A united opposition on Thursday disrupted Rajya Sabha proceedings protesting against making Aadhaar card mandatory for availing government benefits like subsidised LPG, PDS supplies and pensions, forcing its adjournment thrice since morning.
The House was first adjourned till noon, then for about 15 minutes and once again till 2 PM as the Opposition uproar continued unabated.
Opposition TMC, BJD and SP had given notices for suspension of business to take up the issue which also found support from the Left parties and the Congress. The notices were rejected by the Chair.
While the government clarified that the unique identification number (UID) or Aadhaar card issued to citizens was not mandatory for availing government benefits and necessary instruction to this effect were being issued, dissatisfied opposition members trooped into the Well raising slogans, forcing adjournment of proceedings till noon.
Soon after the House assembled and listed papers laid, Naresh Agarwal (SP), Derek O'Brien (TMC) and Dilip Tirkey (BJD) said they had given notices under rule 267, but Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said their motion has not been permitted.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said the Centre has issued instructions to state governments to stop ration card benefits, pensions and subsidised LPG to those not having Aadhaar card.
As much as 40 per cent of the population do not have Aadhaar card and the move will hit the poor hard, he said.
Derek O'Brien said the BJP-led government talks of cooperative federalism but takes decisions without discussing with states. Making Aadhaar mandatory will have serious repurcusions across the country, he said.
Tirkey (BJD) said with 20 percent of the population in Odisha do not have Aadhaar card, the instruction by the Centre will only create problems for the poor.
In his response, Minister for Urban Development M Venkaiah Naidu said the Act passed by Parliament provides that government benefits can be availed through Aadhaar cards.
The government, he said, has taken note of the concerns raised by members. "It (Aadhaar card) is not compulsory. If necessary, necessary instructions will be issued," he said.
The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) - the scheme of paying government benefits directly to users, was started by the previous UPA government, he said, adding "DBT is need of the hour" as it helps eliminate corruption, middlemen and leakages.
Observing that Aadhaar will not be made mandatory till the entire population gets such cards or UID numbers, he said "I will ensure necessary clarification is issued at the earliest."