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Inefficiencies in the Aadhaar project

Synopsis: There are many issues regarding the use of Aadhaar for the identification of beneficiaries. So, the central and state governments should allow for an alternative identification mechanism.

Background
  • There was mandatory usage of Aadhaar for the identification of beneficiaries for several welfare schemes such as the PDS, the NREGA and LPG subsidy.
  • It was challenged in 2018 as it was violating the individual’s privacy. But the court upheld the Aadhaar Programme by stating that a reasonable restriction on individual privacy is not unconstitutional. Specifically, if it fulfils welfare requirements and dignity.
  • Recently, a review petition regarding the validity of Aadhar for public purposes was again filed in the supreme court. But, a 4-1 majority Bench rejected the review petition in January 2021.
  • More recently, another petition was filed in the SC stating that 3 crore ration cards got cancelled for not being linked with the Aadhaar database. Further, these exclusions were connected to starvation deaths in some states.
  • According to recent data, nearly 90% of India’s population has been assigned the Aadhaar number
What are the issues in Aadhar based identification system?
  1. Individuals to avail benefits under the PDS, the NREGA and LPG subsidy etc., need the aadhaar number. But many inefficiencies in the system have impacted the beneficiaries to access welfare schemes. For example,
      • Inefficiencies in biometric authentication and updating,
      • Inefficiencies in linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and the use of the Aadhaar payment bridge
  2. According to some reports, failures in authentication has led to delays in the disbursal of benefits.
  3. Also, in many cases, the cancellation of legitimate beneficiary names led to the denial of welfare services. For example,
  4. According to reports, from 2017, there have been starvation deaths in Jharkhand because of the denial of benefits and subsidies.
Other challenges in using Aadhar based identification system
  1. One, success rates of authentication and the generation of “false negatives” has always been an issue. For example, labourers and tribal people engaged in manual and hard labour, are susceptible to fingerprint changes over time.
  2. Two, there are instances of people losing cards leading to a denial of benefits.
  3. Three, poor implementation of exemption mechanisms that would help beneficiaries avail subsidies and benefits.
Way forward

The elimination of ghost beneficiaries can also be addressed by the use of other verification cards and by decentralised disbursal of services at the panchayat level. So, the central and state governments should allow for an alternative identification mechanism.

Source: The Hindu

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