The multiple facts of Aadhaar

The Government’s decision to link direct benefit transfers with Aadhaar can be a game-changer in a sense that it will empower not only various schemes but also numerous sections of the society. Sooner or later, Aadhaar has to become the aadhar of the country

Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique   identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for all residents in the country on a voluntary basis. The number is stored in a centralised database and is linked to basic demographics and biometric information-photograph, 10 fingerprints and iris of each individual. It ensures uniqueness and there can be no space for duplicity in the future as per the present technology.

Initially, Aadhaar was used only for identification purpose, but now, it is being used as a device for direct benefit transfers (DBT) to the poor and needy under various Government schemes. Aadhaar is a real game-changer for this country. Till now, due to various cases in the Supreme Court, only a few schemes related to the poor and needy viz, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), the National Social Assistance Programme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, various scholarship programmes, LPG subsidy etc, could become Aadhaar-based.

The total savings on behalf of leakages due to Aadhaar-based seeding, during the last five and a half years, tantamount to billions of rupees. A World Bank study which applaudes the Aadhaar-based seeding points out, “India’s fuel subsidy programme, implementing cash transfers to Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, to buy liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, saved about one billion dollar per year when applied throughout the country.”

According to another report, the implementation of Aadhaar enabled four States viz, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Pondicherry and Delhi save a total amount of Rs 2346 crore.

On the other hand, the Government estimates to have saved over Rs 27,000 crore by cash transfers for payments to beneficiaries under various welfare schemes in the last two years. DBT has resulted in significant savings across welfare schemes. It has also resulted in weeding out of duplicate beneficiaries. For instance, over 1.6 crore (16 million) bogus ration cards have been deleted, resulting in savings to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore.

Similarly, 3.5 crore duplicate beneficiaries were weeded out in the PAHAL scheme, resulting in savings of over Rs 14,000 crore in 2014-2015 alone. Similar efforts in MGNREGS led to a saving of Rs 3,000 crore — roughly 10 per cent of the entire annual budget of the reform. Several States and Union Territories too have achieved significant savings through DBT.

On April 4, UIDAI generated the 100th crore Aadhaar. Also, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016, was passed on the March 11 by the Lok Sabha.

The generation of the 100th crore Aadhaar and the passage of the Aadhaar Act will be remembered as two landmark events in the history of India. With this, Aadhaar has become the largest online digital identity platform in the world. Not only this, presently, it is the world’s one of the most secured data repository system too. Functionally, it is better than the digital identity system of Chile, Ghana, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey or Egypt.

Very few people are aware of the fact that Aadhaar-based identification system is more mammoth, more secure and more unique than the United States’ Social Security number-based identification system which does not cover the biometrics and iris of individual. It covers only the demographic data of an individual and hence, it cannot be unique and secure. It can be fudged, altered or manipulated which is not true for Aadhaar-enabled system in India.

The passage of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, will facilitate the formation of a statutory unique identification authority of India and the linkages of Aadhaar-enabled system to various schemes, programmes and services of Government of India, starting from taking benefit of a scheme to railway reservations, to income tax collections.   Every scheme and service in India can be connected to the Aadhaar network.

This new Act provides for several measures for the security and confidentiality of information. There are restrictions on sharing of information and there are punishments and penalties for misuse of information/impersonation in the Act.

Hence, the new Aadhaar Act, at one time, provides for the facilitation of the Aadhaar-based linkages with the different schemes/services of Government of India which will help save billions of exchange every year. At the same time, it has tried to secure the information provided by citizen in the best possible way by having various provisions to ensure the security of information.

The future of it lies in the speed with which the services and schemes are linked with Aadhaar in as little time as possible.  Every activity of business, enterprise or Government has a potential of being linked with Aadhaar-based system which, at this time, is one of the most well-secured information infrastructure of the world.

Even mobile companies can make their mobiles Aadhaar-enabled. This will help the citizens avail any service from a click of a mobile in a secured way. Also, the Government of India spends huge money in elections and in managing the election structure. Aadhaar-enabled voting system, if implemented in the future, will not only help the Government save billions of rupees, which are being incurred in providing EPIC cards, revision of electoral rolls, and eliminating duplicate entries from such lists, but will also help generate every individuals vote. Sooner or later, Aadhaar has to become the aadhar of the country.

This very Aadhaar programme,  ideally supports the motto of ‘maximum governance and minimum Government’, that was echoed by the NDA Government at the Centre. This will surely help in heralding a new age in India’s governance system which is badly in need of an immediate overhaul.

While bringing governance to the maximum use of people, through the medium of information and communication technology, Aadhaar can truly be regarded as one step ahead in an emerging global power like India. Indians having an identity

proving to be more than what they have in the past, Aadhaar needs to be promoted across the country through education campaign in schools and in news media in a massive way what it is done today.