The government on Thursday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to provide statutory backing to Aadhaar for transferring subsidies and benefits. Some Opposition parties objected to its being moved as a money bill, which will help the legislation bypass the Rajya Sabha where the government is in minority.
A money bill can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha and the speaker’s decision is final. The Rajya Sabha is required to return a money bill passed by the Lok Sabha within 14 days of receipt. Any amendment made to it by the Rajya Sabha is not binding.
The UPA introduced a similar bill in the Rajya Sabha in December 2010, but a finance-related standing committee suggested major changes to its provisions and recommended the then government bring in a new version.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley withdrew the UPA bill from the Rajya Sabha on Thursday to introduce The Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016. The bill incorporates clauses to keep personal information discreet and Aadhaar’s not being a proof of citizenship.
Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge opposed the introduction, saying the UPA introduced a similar bill but the NDA made it a money bill to “avoid” the Rajya Sabha. He suggested that both houses got an opportunity to have their views on the bill which should also got to a standing committee.
But Jaitley argued that the new bill was significantly different from The National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, 2010. Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD also objected to the legislation and sought a clarification from the minister on keeping personal information discreet and Aadhaar’s not being a proof of citizenship.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajn allowed the introduction of the bill.
Saying that the bill addressed those concerns, Jaitley added, “Ours is a money bill as it confines itself to government expenditure.” Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu backed the bill, saying it would help save Rs 20,000 crore by avoiding subsidies being taken by the undeserving.
The bill will provide for “good governance, efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, to individuals residing in India through assigning of unique identity numbers to such individuals,” a brief summary of the bill said.
Left parties expressed concern over the way the bill was pushed. “In the present scheme of things, the speaker of the Lok Sabha can decide whether a bill is a money bill or not. That is not a fair way of taking such decisions. The speaker of the Lok Sabha, unlike the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, is one among the MPs. And he or she belongs to the ruling party,” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.
Left leaders said they had reservations over privacy issues involved in the use of Aadhaar and the government discarded all those aspects by making it a money bill.