Indian media: 'Setback' for identity scheme

Fingerprints being taken at a biometric identity number centre in India
Image caption The identity number is aimed at facilitating services for the poor

Media in India feel a Supreme Court order rejecting the requirement of a unique identification number for citizens to access benefits is a "setback" for the government in the run-up to the general elections next year.

The Aadhaar (Foundation) programme aims to provide a unique identity number to citizens to help transfer welfare funds to the country's poor.

The government hopes that the Aadhaar scheme will help in ending the role of middlemen in delivering welfare programmes.

While the federal government has not made it mandatory for citizens to obtain the Aadhaar card, some departments have reportedly linked their welfare programmes to the unique identification number.

"This matter requires to be heard. Put up for final hearing. Until then, no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of authority making it mandatory," the court said in an interim order while hearing petitions challenging the rollout of the Aadhaar scheme, the Hindustan Times reports.

The paper feels that "the order can slow down the government's game-changer direct benefit transfer of entitlements as it can't push people to enrol any more".

"The move could potentially crimp the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's plans to use the direct transfer of benefits as a talking point in the upcoming general election; it had even coined a catchy slogan to do so - Apkaa paisa aapke haath (your money in your hands)," says business daily Mint.

The Times of India says the orders "comes as a respite to citizens who were harried by the growing demand of authorities to link delivery of a whole array of services and subsidies such as those for cooking gas to Aadhaar cards".

The paper adds that the order has "dealt a crippling blow" to the federal government's "showpiece Aadhaar scheme".

Staying with domestic news, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed concern over the misuse of social media in "flaring up communal passions" and requested state governments to take action against those responsible for sectarian violence, The Hindu reports.

"Social media… gives people freedom to express their opinions and thoughts. But we should not allow people to misuse this medium to create communal tension and spread hatred," Dr Singh said while addressing a meeting of the National Integration Council in Delhi.

Mr Singh highlighted the role played by circulation of fake videos in the recent communal violence in Muzaffarnagar district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the paper says.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) will monitor the print and electronic media and take action against any "paid news" content as parties gear up for Delhi assembly elections in November, reports the Deccan Herald.

Akshay Rout, the EC's director-general, says a "24x7 mechanism" to monitor media content would be put in place, the paper says.

According to the EC, "paid news" can be defined as favourable media coverage or analysis appearing in any newspaper or TV channel "for a price in cash or kind as consideration".

'Fresh opportunity'

In international news, Indian newspapers have welcomed the "landslide" victory of a pro-Tamil coalition in elections held for Sri Lanka's Northern Provincial Council.

The Asian Age says the Tamil National Alliance's (TNA) "landslide victory" has "presented a fresh and perhaps the best opportunity in recent times for the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka".

"After three decades of gruesome death and destruction that mauled almost every household in the north, the Tamils have now got a chance to get on their feet," the paper says in an editorial.

The Hindu feels the vote has given the "war-ravaged north its first-ever democratic political set-up that will share governance with the centre (federal government)".

However, the paper says the "real test, though, begins now" and urged the Sri Lankan government to "respect the TNA's mandate" and "not resist" sharing power.

And finally, the sluggishness in the Indian economy seems to be having no impact on property prices in Mumbai as an apartment has been sold for a whopping sum of 570m rupees (£5.6m pounds; $9m), reports The Times of India.

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