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The government is to examine possible ways to come up with a personal identification system for children below three years of age.
Maneka Gandhi, minister for women and child development (WCD), told journalists at a briefing on the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) — approved by the Cabinet on
Her finance and health counterparts, Arun Jaitley and J P Nadda, were present; it was not a pre-thought decision.
“I have been looking for solutions to identify children below three years of age. There are a number of areas where this will help. You have cases of kidnapping or adoption gone wrong. There are many cases of fake children (identities). In Assam alone, there are 300,000 such fake identities,” she said.
Her announcement followed mild confusion at the press briefing on the usage of Aadhaar, the citizen identification, for the NNM. A reporter tried to confirm if an Aadhaar registration was compulsory for children to be brought under the scheme, or if that of their parents would do.
The ECD ministry’s secretary, Rakesh Srivastava, said benefits would not be denied to any child without Aadhaar. However, they would have to get enrolled once they joined the programme.
This led to a counter from the journalists that the Unique Identification Authority of India, the agency implementing Aadhaar, itself seeks biometric authentication only from the age of five years. Under the rule, till this age, the child’s unique identification is linked to that of the parents. Medical journals say fingerprints develop by six months of age but it takes up to five years for these to be fully defined. Gandhi then said the Centre would look to reduce the age of seeking biometrics but soon realised herself that this might not be possible.
There were claims and counter-claims between the ministers gathered and the reporters for around 10 minutes. It was all very cordial. Then, Gandhi conceded this issue required further examination.
“I admit I am not an expert on this matter. But, even before Aadhaar became relevant, I felt there was a need to find a system for children below three years of age. That is what we will work on.”
The NNM is designed to tackle the problems of under-nutrition, low birthweight and stunting.
It has been provided a budget of Rs 9,046 crore for a period of three years, till March 31, 2020. The target is to reduce under-nutrition and low birthweight by two per cent each year, Jaitley said.
It also aims to bring down anaemia among young children, women and adolescent girls by three per cent yearly. At least 100 million people would benefit, Srivastava said.
All districts will be covered — 315 in 2017-18, another 235 in 2018-19 and the remaining ones in 2019-20.