A week after the Supreme Court delivered its interim order on use of Aadhaar numbers, the government on Thursday decided to continue seeding the identity numbers into the database of beneficiaries if people voluntarily shared the numbers.
The government has also found a way to minimise the impact of the verdict on Aadhaar-linked schemes.
The Supreme Court had, last week, restricted the government from using the Aadhaar number for all schemes except distribution of foodgrains and cooking fuel such as kerosene and LPG.
The final verdict in the case will come only after it determines if privacy is a constitutional right.
The government has decided, in consultation with the law ministry, that this restriction still leaves the door open for ministries to transfer the benefits electronically to the bank account of the beneficiary without Aadhaar.
“The finance ministry has also decided that if a beneficiary voluntarily shares his Aadhaar number with a department, there is no restriction on incorporating the identity number in their database,” a government official said.
This will ensure that the government is ready with an Aadhaar-linked database if the court allows its rollout on a later date.
Government sources said the home ministry — that was all set to rollout a Rs 950-crore plan to update the national population register — had moved the law ministry to clarify if this project would get affected by the SC verdict.
One of the key ideas behind the project was to seed Aadhaar numbers into the population register in one go, ensuring quicker rollout of direct benefit transfer schemes.
Bihar on priority list
Cabinet secretary PK Sinha on Thursday chaired a meeting of secretaries to discuss the status of projects to link Aadhaar with subsidies for cooking gas, kerosene and public distribution of food.
Sources said Bihar would be a priority state where the Aadhar linkage will see a renewed push. “Apart from Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal will be our focus areas,” said a senior bureaucrat.