As a standalone document Aadhaar was just a proof of identity, but it was always clear that the government would like to make it more than just that, given that it was intent on biometric registration. A few years after Aadhaar has made its debut, various services are now being tied to the unique identification solution. First, it was bank accounts and welfare schemes like MGNREGA, mid-day meals and pension scheme, now the government wants to link databases across services. With over 120 crore registrations, it can be a good fraud check too as anybody registering for one service would also need to have an authentic Aadhaar number. Let us take stock of the various services that are linked to Aadhaar today and more that are in the offing.
One of the first targets of Aadhaar was the mobile number. Although most new registrations are eKYC based, the government plans to cover all connections by February 6, 2018. So, by next year most mobile numbers would be Aadhaar enabled. Not only would this solve the problem of people putting up fake Ids to get mobile numbers, but number portability and acquiring a new connection would become easier. The process for linking your mobile number to your Aadhaar is simple. All you need to do is visit the nearest mobile centre, show your card and register your biometrics, and it is done. If you wish to get on the government’s digital bandwagon, this may become a mandatory step.
The government’s work on e-payments cannot be complete if you have not linked your Aadhaar to your bank account. All accounts, besides the no-frill Jan-Dhan accounts, need to be Aadhaar linked by December 31, 2017. The process is much similar to that of a mobile connection, you need to visit your bank branch or link it through net banking. It is expected to catapult payments and make it much easier for people to open accounts. More important, BHIM, UPI, all being UIDAI connected platforms, Aadhaar becomes a necessary condition. For seamless transactions, Aadhaar is a must.
One of the government’s latest initiatives that has created much furore, Aadhaar is now mandatory for filing income tax returns. For those having filed online returns last year, the I-T departments already has your Aadhaar number, but for new users, the window has been open since July 1. Although the government has not set a deadline, making it mandatory for anyone filing returns means most would have registered it by the end of July, as this time late filing also attracts a penalty. Registration is easy, you can go to the e-filing website, key in your PAN and Aadhaar data and get it verified by an OTP.
Voter ID card
The Election Commission had embarked on the process of linking Aadhaar and voter ID, it had stopped following the litigation in the Supreme Court. Although the commission has not set a deadline, you can go ahead and register yourself. So, if the government does make it mandatory citing voter fraud, you would not have to trouble yourself in the last few days. The process is easy. You can do it either through the National Voters Service Portal (NVSP) portal or via SMS. To do it from NVSP, you need to search your name through the electoral ID and feed in your Aadhaar information, for SMS linking you need to type ECILINK < EPIC_Number > < Aadhaar_Number > and send it to 166 or 51969.
Besides these four services, Aadhaar has also been made mandatory for MNREGA, Indira Gandhi Pension Yojana, mid-day meal—this is contingent upon states—Targeted Public Distribution System and over 60 other schemes. While some are already mandatory, there are plans to make Aadhaar linking mandatory for all by March 2018. More important, if the Supreme Court gives it a go ahead and government can convince it of a stringent privacy bill, one can see Aadhaar becoming a necessary and sufficient condition for driving licence, passport, booking of flight and train tickets. There will always be detractors to the services, but with Aadhaar becoming a one-stop solution it is important that government strengthens the privacy law around it so that private players or the government itself cannot take advantage of it.