Aadhaar – linked social benefits swell coffers

Linking Aadhaar to social benefit schemes has swelled the Government coffers by Rs2,687 crore — enabled through elimination of duplicate and ghost beneficiaries. This claim made by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in an affidavit before the Supreme Court will prove crucial considering the fact that the apex court is to decide Centre’s plea on Tuesday whether or not to permit linking of Aadhaar to a host of social benefit schemes purely on a voluntary basis.

At present, there are 91.68 crore Aadhaar card holders in the country, which is by far the widest possible database available for the over 127 crore population. Using Aadhaar, the Government has so far linked 3.16 crore out of 9.16 crore active workers under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), over 7.01 crore individuals out of 17.29 crore under PM Jan Dhan Yojana, 87 lakh people under Employees Provident Fund scheme, 3.2 lakh retired people for Jeevan Pramaan Certificate, about 54 lakh pensioners (including old aged, widows, and disabled), besides LPG and PDS beneficiaries.

When the MGNREGA database was streamlined using Aadhaar documentation, the States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana alone provided a long list of ghost beneficiaries that saved Rs127 crore worth public mone.This exercise was repeated with other Central-sponsored schemes as well and the results were note-worthy.

Under the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS), when Aadhaar number was inserted into the list of beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh alone 69 lakh duplicates were detected. In Delhi, 80,000 ration cards were found duplicate. In all, on the information received from States, the Government saved benefits up to Rs 2,345.78 crore. Even in pension accounts, State of Jharkhand reported 59 per cent beneficiaries to be fake or duplicate while in Chandigarh almost 99 per cent were reported as duplicate accounts. In State-sponsored scholarship schemes too, out of 5.34 lakh beneficiaries in Telangana 36,960 were found to illegally avail the scheme followed by Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. In all, the Government claimed to have saved an estimated sum of Rs 2,687.07 crore.

The UIDAI wants the court to consider these facts on Tuesday as it seeks modification of an earlier order passed on August 11, 2015 restricting use of Aadhaar to LPG and PDS distribution schemes alone. The above two concessions were granted by the court even as the Bench referred the larger question of whether citizens can be forced to part their private details under Aadhaar scheme to the Government raising privacy issues. This question is pending consideration before a Constitution Bench but the application of the Centre will be heard on Tuesday by a three-judge Bench that referred the case to the larger Bench.

With coming of Aadhaar, delivery of goods under LPG and PDS schemes has proved effective, efficient and error-free, claims the Government. It wants to replicate this experience using Aadhaar for other schemes as well.