Unique number to get statutory backing; govt says will save money
The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a Bill to give statutory backing to the unique identification number Aadhaar, paving the way for easy use of the same for smooth transfer of government doles and benefits to the population they are intended for.
With the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 being accorded the status of a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha speaker, its passage by Parliament is now a certainty, as the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling alliance is in a minority, has no powers to block a Money Bill.
Speaking during the discussion on the Bill, finance minister Arun Jaitley said it “will empower the states to distribute resources of the state to deserving people and save the resources that undeserving people get.” “The effect,” he said, was going to be on the Centre and state governments which will save thousands of crores.”
The minister said targeted subsidy through Aadhaar cards of LPG consumers had resulted in savings of over R15,000 crore for the Centre.
“Four states which had started delivery of grains using Aadhaar on a pilot basis, had saved more than R2,300 crore,” Jaitley said.
Significantly, the Aadhaar Bill 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.
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 makes 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 Rs 44,035 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%.