"Sajida Begum who has been living at the Leprosy Hospital (in Bengaluru) was enrolled on Tuesday for an Aadhaar card as a special case without biometrics, as she had lost their fingers and vision due to leprosy," the hospital's Administrative Medical Officer, Dr. Ayub Ali Khan Zai told IANS.
Begum, who had contracted leprosy at a young age, had been living at the state government-run hospital in the central part of the city for over a decade.
"I receive about Rs 1,000 pension every month, which stopped coming to me for the past four months," Begum told IANS.
She uses the money she receives from the state government as a welfare pension which is given to citizens above 60 years, to buy necessities like hair oil, bathing soap, occasionally some clothes and some snacks and tea from the hospital's canteen.
"She had complained to us few days ago that she wasn't receiving her monthly pension. We were later told by the women in the hospital that she had received a letter from the bank asking her to link her pension account with Aadhaar number," the doctor recalled.
The state-run Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) requires one to provide with biometric information -- ten fingerprints and two iris (flat, coloured ring-shaped membrane of the eye) scans and a facial photograph -- to be issued with an ID card. The existing rules made Begum incapable of receiving an Aadhaar number -- and thereby her pension.
With the hospital authorities approaching the local UIDAI centre, Begum and six others from the Leprosy Hospital were considered as special cases and were enrolled for the identity number.
As Begum and the others living in the hospital didn't have any proof of residence, the hospital had provided with an authentication letter, Dr Zai said.
"Most of the patients here have been abandoned by their families and have no homes to go back to. So, we provided them with the authentication letters of their residence here," the doctor explained.
With a lot of social stigma surrounding the disease, many who have been living in the hospital depend upon the welfare pensions, he said.
"Sajida is unmarried and doesn't know the whereabouts of her parents as she has been living in leprosy homes for a long time now. The UIDAI officials had got their equipment to the hospital for the enrolment," Dr Zai added.
The hospital is now also working towards assisting all of its 59 patients in registering for pensions if they are eligible and is helping out with the documentation, he said.
"Sometimes, Sajida and other patients remember their homes and families and cry. We've seen Sajida also go into depression many times. As a hospital, we want to help them in whatever way we can in letting them lead their lives," Dr Zai reiterated.
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