Centre may allow Aadhaar authentication for social welfare schemes | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Centre may allow Aadhaar authentication for social welfare schemes

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Aug 06, 2020 11:39 PM IST

An order by IT ministry has asked government departments to seek permission for the scheme.

The Centre may allow Aadhaar authentication for delivery of the social welfare benefits by government entities to ensure “good governance” and for “prevention of dissipation of welfare benefits” to the people, a government order has said.

Till now, the government has allowed seeding of Aadhaar number for delivery of social welfare benefits under some programmes such as Public Distribution System.(PTI FILE PHOTO)
Till now, the government has allowed seeding of Aadhaar number for delivery of social welfare benefits under some programmes such as Public Distribution System.(PTI FILE PHOTO)

Till now, the government has allowed seeding of Aadhaar number for delivery of social welfare benefits under some programmes such as Public Distribution System. However, for delivery of the benefit such as food grains under the public distribution system or money under pension schemes, Aadhaar authentication was not needed.

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This could, however, change with the new rules called the Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020.

“The Central government may allow Aadhaar authentication by requesting entities in the interest of good governance, preventing leakage of public funds, promoting ease of living of residents and enabling better access to services for them,” the rules notified by the ministry of electronics and information technology on Wednesday said.

To be sure, the rules are in consonance with the 2016 Supreme Court judgment that struck down section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, which did not allow private entities to use Aadhaar database for authentication.

Social welfare activists, however, said the move could lead to further exclusion of the poor people from getting benefits under the various social welfare schemes without putting any check on corruption and leakages from these schemes.

“There is already so much evidence to show that Aadhaar has led to exclusion of poor people in disbursement of subsidised ration in Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar. The decision could lead to further exclusion as in rural areas there is very poor connectivity and biometrics of many people don’t work,” said Reetika Ghera, a development economist working at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Abdul Lateef Jamil Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) study done in 10 districts of Jharkhand by economist Karthik Muralidharan in 2019 had found that the Aadhaar seeding in the PDS had lead to many genuine persons getting excluded from the PDS scheme without very little benefit of plugging food grains leakages.

About six percent of total ration cards in these 10 districts were cancelled between 2016 and 2018, as they could not be linked to Aadhaar. However, after a lot of hue and cry by activists, physical verification of ration card holders was done and many ration cards were restored. “About 88% of the cancelled ration cards were real and qualified to receive ration,” the study had found.

According to the new rules, the Central government could allow requesting government entities --- Central and state government departments --- to carry out Aadhaar authentication.

For availing authentication services, individual departments will have to seek approval of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is the statutory body to manage Aadhaar and runs Aadhaar-based services.

A Central government official privy to the development said that the purpose of the order is to ensure that “genuine” beneficiaries get benefits of the government schemes in real-time without any delay. “Authentication will also help in plugging the leakages, if any, in the schemes. The rules provide government agencies a framework to seek UIDAI’s authentication services,” the official said.

The rules say authentication will be allowed for three purposes --- to ensure good governance, prevention of dissipation of social welfare benefits and enablement of innovation and spread of knowledge. However, innovation and knowledge has not been defined in the rules.

The rules say Aadhaar authentication will be voluntary.

“If the department says that people will not get the welfare services without authentication, voluntary becomes mandatory,” said development economist Jean Dreze, who has been arguing against making Aadhaar mandatory to avail social welfare schemes.

Under the authentication mechanism, the UIDAI from its database verifies whether the Aadhaar number or biometric details given are of a particular person or not. The UIDAI server replies only in “Yes” or “No” without providing any demographic details of the person, whose identity is being verified. Through the Aadhaar seeding system, the verification is done through the department’s database, not Aadhaar.

According to Aadhaar Act, a requesting entity means “an agency or person that submits the Aadhaar number, and demographic information or biometric information, of an individual to the Central Identities Data Repository for authentication”.

The new rule makes it clear that only the government agencies would be allowed to use Aadhaar authentication services, not any private entity. This is in line with the 2016 Supreme Court judgment that upheld the Aadhaar law but struck down section 57 which allowed private entities to use Aadhaar database for authentication.

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