You will soon have to produce an Aadhaar number to access government services, right from applying for a driving licence to registering a property deed.
Delivering targeted subsidies isn’t all that the Aadhaar Bill passed by Parliament this month seeks to achieve. It also makes the 12-digit unique identity number the new weapon in the government’s armoury to fight black money, put an end to benami transactions and check frauds, too.
Once the new law comes into force, the government will start identifying public services that you can access only on producing an Aadhaar number. Those who do not have it will have to give proof that they have applied for one. Nearly 78% of the 128 crore population has been issued an Aadhaar number.
Notwithstanding the risks to privacy , this will have its share of advantages.
“It will significantly reduce the problem of ghosts and duplicates in the system... what is called retail fraud,” ABP Pandey, director general and mission director, Unique Identification Authority of India, told HT.
For instance, Aadhaar will ensure that a person can get only one driving licence, irrespective of which corner of the country he gets it from. “Once people know they cannot get another licence, they will be more careful about violating traffic rules,” an official in the road transport and highways ministry said.
That could make Indian roads much safer. About 150,000 people die in road accidents in the country annually and nearly a third of motor vehicle drivers have a fake licence.
In a single stroke, Aadhaar could discourage people with black money from buying benami properties, a preferred investment to park funds. When the government makes Aadhaar mandatory for property transactions, people will not be able to buy properties in just about anybody’s name. Income tax authorities could easily check if the person in whose name a property was purchased had declared the income in tax returns.
It is a plan that finance minister Arun Jaitley has been mulling over for more than a year.
The income tax department last year started asking taxpayers to report their Aadhaar number in online returns. The incentive was that those who did so were spared the pain of sending their signed returns by post.
“Many people still did not give their number,” an income tax department official said. With the law on their side, the official said it would be possible for them to explicitly mandate that people do.
“The idea has been to link Aadhaar with the PAN (permanent account number issued by the tax department) and the passport number. This will help the tax department track transactions and compare them with the income disclosed in the tax return,” an official said.
Government officials said the Delhi government move in 2013 making Aadhaar compulsory for accessing any service could be the norm across the country. The 2013 order, however, had to be withdrawn on Supreme Court directions in the absence of legislative backing for the number.
(With inputs from Timsy Jaipuria)