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Govt comes up short in explaining if homeless are getting Aadhaar cards, ASG on backfoot

A shocking difference in numbers was presented to the Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta regarding the number of homeless people in UP. The bench is hearing a petition by E R Kumar, an advocate of the top court with regard to the safety of road side dwellers.

The court had issued notice and impleaded all the states in the PIL and directed  the status report  stating  therein  the number of homeless persons, number of shelters provided so far and further action which the  government  of  each  state  and union territory proposes to take to provide shelter to  those  who  do  not have the same even today.

On Wednesday (January 10) Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted: “We did a survey. There are 22,000 people who are homeless. The census (2011) shows 180,000. We conducted this survey with many private companies. Based on this, we prepared the roadmap for UP.

The bench was shocked at the big difference. It asked: “How can it be possible that the difference is so huge. And how much money has been allotted?”

The ASG said that the census was done in 2011. The number of shelter homes sanctioned 1,126 (given in the list).

The bench observed that it is easy to understand that this report is either correct or wrong.

The ASG tried to explain, saying theta the numbers are changing even as shelters are being given. “Right now we have the capacity of 22,000.”

The bench said: “Then you don’t need money. You have enough money for 22,000 people. The Government of India gave 9 times as much money.” When the bench pointed out that the fact of the matter was that the homeless would have to be provided shelters, the ASG said: “Then the 22,000 survey must be ignored.”

The bench said: “Then we have to ignore all the documents submitted.”

The ASG said: “No, just ignore this report. We have done this survey within three days. The survey is going on and it can be 40,000 also. It will be completed by July 2018.”

Bench said July is too late as in UP monsoon season starts in May or June. To that the ASG said: “I will request the government to do it fast.”

Moving over to identifying the homeless, the court asked a very pertinent question. It asked: “How can they get their Aadhaar cards? It means these people do not exist for the Union of India.”

At this counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted that “they (the government) said there are 90 crore Aadhaar registered people.”

At this the ASG defended weakly, saying: “Not having Aadhaar does not mean that they do not exist in the records. I am not able to answer this question.”

The bench asked: “Then who will answer this question?”

The ASG, clearly on the defensive, said: “I think the people in authority must have the answer to this question.”

He also submitted that may be they have voter ID cards.

—India Legal Bureau

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