Aadhaar not mandatory, but makes life easier for people

NEW DELHI: The Aadhaar number is not a mandatory ID and the government is willing to reiterate this commitment but inability to link the UID platform with a plethora of central and state welfare schemes will severely disadvantage a large chunk of 92 crore persons enrolled in the scheme who have no other reliable means of identification.

While the rules make it clear that Aadhaar is not mandatory for various services, requests will be processed much faster with a UID number as it provides definitive proof of identity through biometrics and eliminates duplication and fraud.

Usage of Aadhaar suggests that the initiative has gained momentum because of an individual’s preference as it offers benefits either in terms of convenience, time, money, and/or transparency.

While many in urban areas may have alternative IDs, a very large number of Aadhaar enrolled persons, mainly poor and rural masses, have no other ID and will be hit hard if Aadhaar is ruled out as a link to welfare.

Aadhaar, considered a valid proof of address and identity across various domains including the government, has emerged as a key tool as UID offers a ubiquitous platform to authenticate anyone, anytime so long as there is internet connectivity.

As on date, around 92 crore people have been issued Aadhaar, which is much higher than 5.7 crore passports, over 17 crore PAN cards, over 60 crore election photo identity cards (EPIC), over 15 crore ration cards and over 17 crore driving licences.

Traditionally, people didn’t have any nationally acceptable unique identity, and were forced to use proxy identities such as driving licence, PAN cards, EPIC, ration cards and passport among others to prove their identity and address. But the lack of easily verifiable identity led to exclusion of genuine beneficiaries, mainly poor and marginalized, while it resulted in inclusion of duplicates and fake entries in various beneficiary lists.

Aadhaar has also emerged as a key tool for preventing leaks. One such case is saving of around Rs 19,000 crore in the direct benefit transfer scheme. Over 2.50 crore payments (transactions) have taken place in schemes like MGNREGA, pensions and scholarships while over 70,000 appointments have been booked at leading hospitals in Delhi such as AIIMS by outstation people by using Aadhaar-linked KYC service.

Under Jan Dhan Yojana, over 18 crore households (representing over 70 crore people) opened bank accounts and over 7.6 crore people opted to give Aadhaar as the KYC document. These account holders started parking their savings and about Rs 32,000 crore is already deposited in these accounts.

Banks (including postal department) have worked to provide basic banking services through 87,000 online POS devices, which work online using mobile technology. Till recently, over 15 crore Aadhaar-based biometric transactions were done on these POS devices, showing that crores of people are using these facilities in rural India.

The trend of linking Aadhaar to bank accounts is not limited to Jan Dhan accounts alone, across India over 21 crore individuals have linked their accounts to their Aadhaar numbers.