Jaipur: In its revised directions for COVID-19 testing issued on Saturday, the medical and health department of Rajasthan has made it mandatory for patients to produce an Aadhaar card before collecting their samples.
“While taking the sample, it is mandatory for lab technician to upload all the desired information of each patient in the RT-PCR App. All the lab technicians are instructed to mandatorily make entry of Aadhaar card number of each patient whose sample is being taken, in the RT-PCR App,” the revised directions said.
The directions don’t take into account any situation where a patient – other than a child – doesn’t possess an Aadhaar card.
For children without Aadhaar card, the directions say, “If a person’s Aadhaar card is not made, such as children, in such a situation, enter the Aadhaar card number of the head of the family or any other person of the family.”
According to a report in Times of India, a senior health department official said that the Aadhaar card was made compulsory to keep track of patients, especially when they test positive for COVID-19. “We have to create containment area in patient’s neighbourhood and conduct contact tracing activities. But if we do not know the exact address of the patient, we find it difficult to take preventive measures,” the official stated.
Health activists in Rajasthan have opposed this directive. “The clause [in the directive] is excluding a large number of people who don’t have an Aadhaar card. It says that Aadhaar card is mandatory but doesn’t speak about patients who don’t have an Aadhaar card. Does this mean that those without Aadhaar card are free to spread the disease?” Chhaya Pachauli of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) told The Wire.
She also added that the Aadhaar card itself has so many lapses and discrepancies, for instance, the address may not hold true, which doesn’t make it reliable for tracking the patients.
“The government should withdraw this order or issue a clarification if they are not denying COVID-19 testing to people without Aadhaar card,” added Pachauli.
Responding to whether a person would be denied testing in the absence of an Aadhaar card, Akhil Arora, principal secretary, medical, health and family welfare department of Rajasthan told The Wire, “Aadhaar card is not made mandatory, only its details are included in the RT-PCR app. There are two ways samples are coming to us, one, through excel sheet where details are not hard and fast verified and other, through app where the details are based on Aadhaar.”
“Where the person doesn’t have an Aadhaar card, details will come through excel sheet as it is,” he added.
Arora further said that consolidated fund of Rajasthan and the Union government are bearing the expenditure of COVID-19 testing.
Last year, the government, through an amendment in the Aadhaar Act, had allowed use of Aadhaar data by states for targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies, benefits and services funded from the Consolidated Fund of State.
The Wire attempted to contact the state health minister, Raghu Sharma, via calls to his office, residence and personal cell phone but was informed that Sharma is at the hotel [where chief minister Ashok Gehlot has sealed all the MLAs and ministers supporting him] and will not be able to speak to anyone. The story will be updated if a response is received.