Aadhaar Bill: There is no doubt that providing Aadhaar the statutory status is one of the biggest successes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But, the real challenge is to use Aadhaar extensively in the disbursement of subsidies and entitlements, and that is not easy.
There is no doubt that the passage of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, in Parliament is one of the biggest reform moves ever.
Giving Aadhaar the statutory status was a primary requirement for its successful implementation, which the UPA government could not ensure, and that led to avoidable controversies and confusion.
That PM Narendra Modi not only adopted this UPA game-changer, but also equipped it with the necessary wherewithal to succeed, is commendable despite the way it was achieved by making it a Money Bill to avoid the possibility of the Bill getting stuck in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA lacks a majority.
But, the passage of the Bill is just a beginning and the real work for the government starts from here. Whatever has been done with regard to the utilisation of Aadhaar, is far away from what had been perceived at the time of introducing Aadhaar.
The number of people having Aadhaar is expected to cross 100 crore within a few days and the real challenge is in seeding of these numbers with the bank accounts of the beneficiaries of different government schemes and entitlements which can be as high as Rs 5 lakh crore annually.
Making Aadhaar the base of all this in any real manner will require a highly co-ordinated effort at the national level, which has been lacking.
Out of the 21.22 crore PM Jan Dhan accounts as on March 9, seen as the drivers of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme based on Aadhaar-based identification, only 9.32 crore is seeded with Aadhaar. This needs to be scaled up quickly with the help of state governments.
According to the Economic Survey data, the total amount disbursed through the JAM platform (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) in FY15, was Rs 44035 crore, which got transferred into the bank accounts of 29.6 crore beneficiaries in schemes like MGNREGA, DBT in LPG and scholarships. But, here too, just 57% beneficiary accounts were seeded with Aadhaar and mere 26% transfers were done through the Aadhaar payment bridge.
It is a fact that even now, if the DBT in LPG is left out, the government’s record of utilising Aadhaar for payment of subsidies and entitlements remains poor, thanks to the controversies surrounding Aadhaar and implementation bottlenecks at the ground level along with the co-ordination issues among the central government ministries and also with the states.
After three years of the implementation of the DBT, it is still difficult to get an updated consolidated data on Aadhaar seeding at the national level.
The biggest issue with Aadhaar-based identification and payments has been its implementation and it has to improve with the backing of a law now.
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