World Bank gives Aadhaar thumbs up; wants other nations to adopt it too

As the government is in the process of linking Aadhaar cards with an array of schemes and programmes amid criticism, the system has been lauded by World Bank chief economist Paul Romer. He feels that other nations should also adopt this system.
“The Aadhaar system is the most sophisticated identification programme in the world,” said Romer in an interview with Bloomberg.

Romer asserted that it is best to develop one standardised system so people can carry their IDs wherever they go in the world.

“It’s the basis for all kinds of connections that involve things like financial transactions. It could be good for the world if this became widely adopted,” Romer said.

Interestingly, countries like Tanzania, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have shown interest in the Aadhaar system and visited India, Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), who created Aadhaar said.

In 2016, RS Sharma, chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) told Mint that Russia, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have also shown interest in Aadhaar.

However, many critics suggest that Aadhaar could put privacy at stake. In 2013, a group of petitioners, including a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, approached the Supreme Court saying that the Aadhaar scheme is an “infringement” on the right of privacy of citizens.

In countries like UK, France and USA similar plans are widely debated. In 2010, UK announced that it was scrapping a plan for a national identity register after objections that it infringed on civil liberties, but it continues to issue biometric residence permits for foreigners. In France a mega database for biometric details of citizens is under the scanner. In US, identity theft complaints were the second-most reported in 2015, Federal Trade Commission said.

Romer rubbished such concerns saying, “It should be part of the policy of the government to give individuals some control over the data that the private firms collect and some control over how that data is used.”

UIDAI says no reason to worry

The UIDAI has biometric and demographic details of 1,110 million residents.

“There has been no breach to UIDAI database of Aadhaar in any manner whatsoever and personal data of individuals held by UIDAI is fully safe and secure,” the UIDAI, which was sent up in 2009 with an aim to provide a 12-digit unique identification number to all the residents after capturing their biometrics details, said in a statement.

The agency claimed that it has decided to encrypt data at the point of capture to strengthen the security features of Aadhaar eco-system. It noted that it has helped 44.7 million people to open bank accounts through Aadhaar e-KYC and enabled the government to directly transfer benefits into the accounts of beneficiaries of various schemes, including domestic cooking gas subsidy, scholarships, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and pension disbursal.

Some important schemes where Aadhaar is linked
  • All disabled people receiving cash benefits such as transport cost, boarding and lodging cost, conveyance cost, cost for post placement support under the Central Sector Scheme for Implementation of Persons with Disability Act, 1995 are required to furnish Aadhaar as a form of identity or enrol for it on or before  May 30 2017.
  • All cash benefits under the Central Sector Sponsorship Scheme for Disabled People will be received by people who provide Aadhaar or get enrolled for it on or before May 30 2017.
  • All women belonging to below poverty line families getting a new liquefied petroleum gas connection are required to provide Aadhaar in order to recover the expenditure and get subsidies under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme . The last date for Aadhaar enrolment in case of this scheme is  March 31 2017.
  • Compensation received by the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy will also require Aadhaar. For this scheme, the last date of enrolment for Aadhaar is May 30 2017.
  • Under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the schools and Anganwadis have been asked to collect the Aadhaar number of the children beneficiaries of mid-day meal scheme and in case a child does not have Aadhaar, the school or ICDS functionary will be required to provide enrolment facilities to a child and till Aadhaar number is assigned, the benefits will continue, the government said in a statement. The last date for enrolling for Aadhaar is June 30 2017 for it.
Government faces flak 

Recently, the government faced a lot of flak for making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits for socially relevant schemes like mid-day meal scheme and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) as critics were skeptical that the step is meant to curtail the benefits. The circular was also said to be in violation of Supreme Court guidelines.


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