The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 has been passed in Lok Sabha. What does this Bill mean and what does it entail are two fundamental questions that loom over the minds of many as of now. Let’s understand the politics and controversy behind the Bill.
Many countries across the globe have adopted the concept of a national security number, wherein that number helps the government track its citizens’ permanent address, contact number, date of birth etc. This number becomes an important part of other official documents as well. The recently introduced Aadhaar bill in the country claims to be a ‘game-changer’ in the Indian administration and also for BJP. While it can’t be ascertained so soon, there are a few facets of this Bill that needs to be pondered upon.
Aadhaar is a 12-digit individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India on behalf of the Government of India. The number serves as a proof of one’s address and other important details. The Aadhaar technology relies on the biometric information of the person. Biometric includes iris recognition and fingerprints. By giving a statutory backing to Aadhar, the government intends to provide subsidies and other benefits to individuals residing in the country. While the NDA govt believes that such a move will prevent the leakage of subsidies, the Opposition has raised questions pertaining to the privacy of every citizen.
The Opposition maintains a stance on privacy, that is, the biometric data collected under Aadhaar include the scan of fingerprints, face, and the iris of both eyes. Other information include DOB, permanent address and contact number. A database storing such an information has chances of getting hacked, transferred or stolen by a third party. The misuse of the personal data is yet another plausibility. Moreover, the ambiguity of the Aadhaar Bill clauses such as the simultaneous non-disclosure of biometric information and disclosure of it under issues of “national security”, make it apprehensive for the citizens of the country or to say the Opposition to give it a thumps-up.
Furthermore, if the Aadhaar Bill is enacted, it would become necessary for every citizen residing in the country for more than 182 days to enroll for an Aadhaar card. Whereas the Supreme Court has ruled that Aadhar cannot be made mandatory.
Another reason that makes this Bill controversial is the way in which it was introduced. FM Arun Jailtey presented the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill in the Lok Sabha on March 3, 2016. Money Bill is for appropriation of money in reference to the Consolidated Fund and it can be introduced in Lok Sabha only. Rajya Sabha can make no amendments to a Money Bill once it is passed in the Lok Sabha.
Since the Modi-govt enjoys a majority in the Lok Sabha and a minority in Rajya Sabha, the introduction of the Aadhar Bill as a Money Bill would have ensured that it did not meet the same fate as that of GST Bill and of course, an expedient approval could be expected.
The fact that the Aadhaar Bill was spearheaded by the UPA government under the name of National ID Bill in 2010 and remains pending in Rajya Sabha till date, is another reason for clash between the government and opposition.
The effort to channelize subsidies, benefits and services to through a 12-digit number or to say its biometric alternative can help plug the leakages in the subsidy framework and give a boost to the Jan Dhan Yojna, which remains closely aligned to this scheme. Allocation and administration of such a system in our country can benefit thousands of people, but living on the edge regarding the foundation of this scheme can pop this ‘game-changer’ into thin air.