In the early days of e-mail, before SMTP became the standard protocol, you needed to have the address of the server where the mail was to be delivered—post-SMTP, just an email address was enough, the internet system did the rest to ensure you got the e-mail wherever you happened to be at any point in time. Till recently, funds transfers from banks were in the same position; apart from the account details of the person to whom the funds had to be transferred, you needed to have the IFSC code of the bank branch where the account was located. That’s what UPI from National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) fixed since, once your Aadhaar number was linked to a bank account, neither the IFSC code nor the bank account details were required—these were embedded in the system, all a sender needed was your name or even a pseudonym or your mobile number. Having developed UPI, NPCI took this a step further and created AadhaarPay on its BHIM app, to cater to the bulk of India’s population that may want to do digital payments but doesn’t have a phone or a smart phone. In this case, the merchant has a fingerprint scanner that costs Rs 2,000 or so attached to the headphone jack of his phone that does the job. Once a transaction is to be paid for, the consumer simply puts a finger on the scanner, this sends an authentication signal to a bank account which is linked to an Aadhaar number, and the bank releases the fund to the merchant’s account.
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India Post’s Payments Bank takes this a step further, and builds upon the government’s Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme which transfers around R50,000 crore a year to people right now, into their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. Since the Aadhaar number never changes, but people can change their bank accounts, India Post seems to be saying, why not just send DBT funds to an Aadhaar number? A pilotwill be run soon to test the plan. Under it, the government will deposit the money it was to send with the Post Bank. This money remains with the bank till the beneficiary comes to the post office—any post office in the country—and undergoes Aadhaar identification through a mobile-linked scanner. Once this is done, the money can either be given to the person in cash, or an account can be opened with the Post Bank and the money deposited there or a pre-loaded debit card can be given to him/her to spend the money anywhere. Over a period of time, as a citizen’s passport or driving licence or income tax PAN, etc, get linked to Aadhaar, it may not be necessary to remember the details of each, just remembering your Aadhaar number will be enough. As the catchy Idea advertisement put it so many years ago when it said people should be known by their phone numbers instead of their names which revealed their religion and caste, what an idea, Sirji!