The Modi government’s efforts at distributing benefits to the intended population in a targeted way received a shot in the arm on Thursday as a Bill seeking to give statutory backing to the unique identification number Aadhaar was tabled in the Lok Sabha. With the status of Money Bill, the proposed legislation does not need approval of the Rajya Sabha where the ruling alliance lacks majority.
The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 doesn’t seek to make Aadhaar mandatory for citizens to avail of government subsidies and other benefits.
The Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar could be used for disbursal of benefits, though not a mandatory basis.
The Aadhaar Bill seeks to make use of Aadhaar number for availing the government subsidies like LPG, grains in the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) and implementation of other social sector schemes.
According to the Bill, “Provided that if an Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual, the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service.” Besides, as per the Section 9 of the Bill having an Aadhaar number would not confer the concerned person with right of citizenship or domicile. The proposed legislation also make it obligatory for the Unique Identification Authority of India to ensure the security of identity information and authentication records of individuals.
Aadhaar is critical to the government’s ambitious JAM trinity (Jan Dhan scheme, Aadhaar and Mobile), which is aimed at large-scale, technology-enabled, real-time direct benefit transfers. While the JAM programme is progressing, the economic survey 2016 had highlighted the need to improve the JAM preparedness and said that main constraint on JAM’s spread is the last-mile challenge of getting money into people’s hands.
In 2014-15, a sum of R44,035 crore was disbursed under JAM to as many as 29.6 crore beneficiaries. While the beneficiaries seeded with Aadhaar were 57% of this, funds transfer using Aadhaar bridge payment was 26%. JAM is being used in distributing benefits across a range of government programmes — from education and labour schemes to subsidies and pensions.
The direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for LPG (Pahal) had led to a 27% reduction in sale of subsidised cylinders. Based on prices and subsidy levels in 2014-15, the annual fiscal savings of Pahal was estimated at R12,700 crore.
The government has approved spending to the tune of Rs 13,663 crore for implementation of Aadhaar scheme up to FY17. Of this, R6,844 crore has been spent for payments towards enrollments and logistics operations while a sum of R408 crore has been spent towards establishment till December 31, 2015.
The Aadhaar Bill also proposes setting up of an Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) headquartered in New Delhi which would be responsible for the process of enrollment and authentication. The UIDAI will consist of a chairman, appointed on part-time or full-time basis, two-part time members and a chief executive officer who shall be the member-secretary of the authority.
About 16.6 crore or 70% of the total consumers of cooking gas have submitted their Aadhaar numbers to their respective dealers. Of these, 58.2% or 9.65 crore consumers are getting their subsidy based on Aadhaar identification, while for the remaining consumers, the subsidy goes directly to their savings bank account.
In case of TPDS, for ensuring that that bogus names in the ration cards are eliminated, 40% of 24.6 crore ration cards in the country are already seeded with Aadhaar. A food ministry official told FE that they are aiming at completing Aadhaar seeding of all beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act, by next two years.
The current government has built on the previous government’s support for the Aadhaar programme — 210 million Aadhaar cards were created in 2015, at rate of over 4 million cards per week. At present, 975 million individuals now hold an Aadhaar card — over 75% of the population and nearly 95%of the adult population.