This was an interview with Ishmat Begum, a 45-year-old mother of three living in a small tenement near the Bengaluru bus station.
INTERVIEW WITH ISHMAT BEGUM (45), BENGALURU 2017
Sarita: How many years back did you get the Aadhaar made?
Ishmat: About four to five years.
Sarita: At the time when you went to get the card made all
those years back, how was it? Was it easy or difficult?
Ishmat: The post office where we went to get it made was right opposite our home. A neighbor’s daughter used to work at the post office. She came and gave the cards to our place after it was done.
Sarita: After how many days was that?
Ishmat: About a month or so. She said, “here aunty, your Aadhaar has come. Here, take it.”
Yet, it could have been an interview with many of those we talked to. Almost everyone mentions getting an Aadhaar card because others are getting it, or because they feel that it is a necessity for the future. In Garudahalli, the rural research site two hours north of Bengaluru (the village name is a pseudonym chosen by the research team), we spoke to Jairam, a 60-year-old widower with no children. Jairam used to be a farmer, but because of the poor rains and failing crops he now owns a small cycle repair shop.
Sarita, our researcher, asks:
Sarita: “Why did you feel the need to get yourself an Aadhaar?”
Jairam: “I felt that the government will be doing something with it. Why would they make it necessary for people to get it? I did think, ‘Why should I go for it?’ But then I saw everyone around me going and getting an Aadhaar. So I said, ‘O.K., let me go and get it as well.’ Then we had gone to the Panchayat [village government] office here and got ourselves enrolled.”
Intermediaries (as Ishmat mentions) and confidence in numbers are critical. Shailaja, a domestic worker in Bengaluru, said of her experience getting an Aadhaar in her village:
Shailaja: “Everyone around us was saying that we should get an Aadhaar made. Even if every other ID goes missing, this is one ID that will be the most important of all. That everyone will ask for it.”
Sarita: “Who did you go with to get it made? Did you go alone?”
Shailaja: “There were lot of us who went together. Around 25 to 30 of us.”
Sarita: “How did you go?”
Shailaja: “We went in a tempo van. And after four months we got our Aadhaar cards.”
MEKRI CIRCLE SQUATTER COLONY, BENGALURU
Almost everyone mentions getting an Aadhaar card because others are getting it, or because they feel that it is a necessity for the future.
AADHAAR TRANSACTION, BENGALURU
We went to this depot and they said,
‘No. The names are not matching. Get your son here. I want to see.’
It is so difficult to do that. Now from the past 6 months we have not been availing of the PDS services. I am an ailing person. Where will I go to this place and that to wait for hours and get a name change and a stamp?
So I have left it.
What we rarely hear in this demographic is anyone enrolling directly on a one-to-one basis in an Aadhaar enrollment center.
When we went to research in the enrollment center in Bengaluru, we found it confusing, with staff that looked busy and harassed. This could be why bystanders ask each other for help — particularly those who are less literate — requesting that others either sign (as a guarantor) or fill in the form on their behalf. Most of those we spoke to had taken a half day or more off from work to spend time in line waiting for the Aadhaar.
While enrolling might be easy (in our initial 60 interviews, we did not hear of any major challenges), what seems to be a lot harder is if one tries to change any of the details, or in some other way encounters problems with bureaucracy. In that case, many of those we spoke to have ended up either going back to a trusted intermediary (e.g., in their own village) or simply giving up. Returning to Ishmat’s experience, she said:
“Now what happened three months ago is that my son’s name is different in the Aadhaar card as compared to the ration shop. Now they are asking us to get the Aadhaar card. If I get it rectified, then it is another one month in Bengaluru One (the state government’s collection center for most citizen-togovernment transactions) and more struggles up and down. So I have left it. We used to have that (subsidized) ration before. Now with this discrepancy of names in the cards, we are not even able to avail of the service. We just go to the shop now and buy one kilogram of whatever we want and consume that.
We went to this depot and they said, ‘No. The names are not matching. Get your son here. I want to see.’ It is so difficult to do that. Now from the past 6 months we have not been availing of the PDS services. I am an ailing person. Where will I go to this place and that to wait for hours and get a name change and a stamp? So I have left it.”