As biometric unique identity Aadhaar gets rolled out to cover more welfare schemes, the government will be able to plug more leaks and save substantial amount of revenue, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday at a book-launch function. He added that the technological infrastructure around Aadhaar will continue to evolve with firewalls to protect privacy. “You have to build adequate firewalls, but, at the same time, the larger public interest will always have to prevail over personal interests,” Jaitley said. In an affidavit filed with the Supreme Court earlier this year, the government had said it had saved nearly Rs 50,000 crore during FY15 and FY16 by using Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfers (DBT) for various welfare schemes. Linking beneficiaries of government schemes had helped the administration eliminate fake benefit claimants.
For instance, the government said seeding Aadhaar has led to the deletion of 2.33 crore fake ration cards and saved Rs 14,000 crore up to December 2016. Additionally, Jaitley said the government was open to suggestions on Aadhaar for meaningful improvement in infrastructure, while protecting the general public. He said he wouldn’t claim that his government had done a better job of implementing Aadhaar, but it has learned and understood the evolution of technology in the past three-four years. “I am quite certain the last word on this has not been said yet, and, therefore, we would always remain open for any further improvements to strengthen this,” the finance minister said. He added that the required changes in law had been brought to address concerns about infrastructure, especially those related to privacy.
Separately, the Supreme Court is likely to constitute a constitutional bench to hear the issue of stay against mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phone numbers, among other proposals. The government has issued nearly 1.2 billion Aadhaar cards in the country so far.