In a drive to give every citizen the unique identification number (UID) Aadhaar — currently, 80% of the population has exclusive numbers and identity borne out by biometrics — the Narendra Modi government has asked the states to assign Aadhaar to newborns at the time of their birth registration.
While these numbers will initially be linked to the UIDs of parents, as a child turns five, she/he will be re-enrolled with biometrics of 10 fingers, iris and facial photograph. The biometrics will be updated when the child turns 15.
As per the Registration of Birth and Death Act 2012, it is mandatory to get birth (as also marriage and death) registered at the place of occurrence within a year (failing which the registration can be done only under a magisterial order).
The government’s latest move is in line with the ambitious plan to provide all central-sector and centrally sponsored benefits to people via the direct benefit transfer (DBT) platform, enabled with Aadhaar and the Jan Dhan drive to ensure bank accounts for each household.
NITI Aayog had recently held a meeting with top officials of all states to get them on board for widening of Aadhaar coverage. Besides giving Aadhaar to newborns, the Centre has asked the states to hold enrolment camps twice a year in every anganwadi for children below five years and organise such camps in every school at least twice a year. These will help collect/update biometrics of each student.
The Centre has advised the states to use Aadhaar-based DBT platform for delivery of state-level benefits as provided in Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
The section provides that the Centre/state may require individuals getting government benefits to undergo authentication or furnish Aadhaar number. The Act was passed by Parliament during the Budget session in the wake of the Supreme Court’s interim order against making Aadhaar mandatory for receiving such benefits.
Keen to utilise the DBT platform to plug leakages in delivery of sundry benefits and doles, the government has already put 74 schemes on the DBT platform. The DBT enabler, JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile), has resulted in cumulative savings of R36,500 crore for the Centre in subsidies such as on cooking gas, food, wages under the employment guarantee Act etc. It disbursed R1.3 lakh crore as on June 30 via the DBT facility since January, 2013.
Encouraged by the success of DBT in schemes such as PAHAL for providing subsidised cooking gas, which resulted in savings to the tune of R14,672 crore in FY15 (the CAG later disputed this figure), the Centre has firmed up a timeline to bring all schemes under the platform. So, it plans to implement Aadhaar-linked DBT for all central schemes in Union Territories by September 30, scholarship schemes across the country by November 30 and all central schemes for PDS (food and kerosene), agriculture insurance, rural employment, housing and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana by March 31, 2017.
The Centre has also asked the states to enlist the help of NGOs, who are getting aid from the government for using their expertise in universalisation of Aadhaar use. The government has also initiated a major technology initiative with features to update beneficiary data regularly and link all existing database across departments at state and central level.
The scope of DBT has been expanded to cover non-monetary transfers (in kind) to various enablers of government schemes like community health workers, anganwadi workers, etc.