Aadhar literally translates as ‘ the basis’. The aadhar card would therefore mean the card that is the basis – the basis of our existence. According to the government, it is this card that will vouch for our identity making it a necessary document for bank accounts, property transactions, driving license, etc. I highly doubt the conveniences of the card. The only one convenience I can think of is the lack of inconvenience of not having an Aadhar card.
Maybe I will learn about conveniences of Aadhar card in coming days to douse my cynicism. However, I learnt today - that getting an ‘Aadhar’ card itself is a lesson in chaos, endless wait, humiliation and disappointment, that public servants are indeed public bullies and that stereotype of bureaucratic inefficiencies is in fact under played.
People, who either need forms or need to submit filled forms start arriving at seven in the morning at the N-2 Community center in Aurangabad where an Aadhar Card center is set up to cater to the densely populated CIDCO area. The ones who are here to submit the forms arrive with food, water and a neat pile of papers, held in hand or tucked in a polythene bag. After three hours, crowds continue to swell and patience begins to wane. No one is allotted a coupon number. There is no queue and no way to know how long it will take. But everyone knows that the wait is long and the battle is tough. They are all prepared for the worst. For many, it is their second day at the center.
Yes, there are few people who get preference when the office opens at expected time of ten in the morning. These people walk through the crowds and enter through a small inlet. The gates of the buildings open for the public at 11:00 AM, four hours after most people have been waiting and one hour after the stated time. The lesser mortals get a sighting of the demi-gods appearing from behind the doors. These are government employees. Even, in the absence of uniforms or nametags, you can still identify them by their nonchalant demeanor and a cruel “devil-may-care” smile. As people brandish their forms huddling around a lone peon in charge to maintain order, a hope sprouts inside your restless mind and aching body. Finally, someone will form an orderly queue to let in people, you think. But, this is where the Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” kicks into bureaucracy. The ones who can push the hardest get through first. The peon, who emerged only for a flash, took a bunch of forms randomly from an impatient crowd and again shut the building doors. The crowds wait some more. When the crowd decided that it had had enough, then started the thumping on the doors. Finally, the gates were thrown open. Moving around like cattle grazing in a dry pastures, people walked from one point to the other inside the building compound with no one to assist or rather grace them with any information on when they can expect to have their turn. School children, office workers, house wives with little children and senior citizens all part of a big chaos. For a huge area with population of about 100 thousand, three people are seated on a booth to collect details and with one person to maintain order.
The disorder is appalling, aggravating and often humiliating. There is a complete absence of any procedure and structure. It operates more like a lottery. If you are fortunate, you will walk out of the building without your form. If not, you can continue walking behind the nameless clerks and peons to get a greater clarity on their whims, opening times and lunch times as they play around with your helplessness giving you no clear answers.
The local municipal corporator of CIDCO has put self-promoting poles all around the area. These are ostensibly to publicize a helpline number mentioned in fine print on the poster that is pretty much useless because no one picks up the phone. You are left with no one you can complain to.
For the city of Aurangabad, which has a population of about 12 lakh (1.2 million) there are just nine centers to issue aadhar card, which is now a necessary evil shrouded in absolute apathy and confusion. It is now left to the masses to struggle against each other and the uncooperative, ill-equipped and untrained government employees to get the prized card that is to be our aadhar.