Aadhaar For Mid-Day Meal? Mamata Banerjee Says No Way, Left Agrees

Mamata Banerjee is upset with Centre's decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for mid-day meal scheme.

Kolkata: No Aadhaar card, no mid-day meal. That is set to become the new battle ground between Mamata Banerjee and the Centre. The West Bengal Chief Minister has described the move as "shocking" -- her party hit the streets of Kolkata and her lawmakers will raise it in Parliament. Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for women and child welfare, has said there will be no problems but the Congress and the Left, for once, agree with Ms Banerjee.

It is an emotive issue -- the food on the plate for school children and those who benefit from the Integrated Child Development Services.

At a Kolkata Municipal Corporation junior school in Behala, all 170 students get a meal, even those without Aadhaar. Sheikh Raj and Sheikh Priya are siblings. She has a card, he doesn't. What will happen if the Aadhar rule kicks in, the teachers there are asking.

Surojit, a student of Class 3, lives in a children's home, his parents are separated and he has no Aadhaar number. Headmaster Dipen Saha says, "How can I discriminate between children over food?"

Trinamool's Mahila Morcha held a protest rally in Kolkata on Monday which they said was the first of many to come. Party leader Chandrima Bhattacharya said, "The decision must be withdrawn immediately. Will children starve because of this anarchic policy of Modi government?"

The government is trying to allay concerns. An official statement today said, "No one will be deprived of the benefits for lack of Aadhaar. Till Aadhaar number is assigned to any individual, the benefit will continue to be given based on alternate means of identification".

But the Trinamool and the Congress feel the move is a threat to the federal structure of the country. They will raise the issue in Parliament on March 9.
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