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Read Current Affairs Topic: Two Sides of Aadhar
Aadhar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian government to every individual resident of India. The Aadhar project was initiated towards having an individual, unique identification document or number that would obtain all the details, including demographic and biometric information, of every Indian citizen.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was established on June 23rd, 2009, for managing Aadhar documentation and Aadhar numbers. On March 11, 2016, Parliament passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, giving legal sanctity to the Aadhar project.
In March 2017, Paul Romer, the chief economist at World Bank called Aadhar project the 'the most sophisticated ID programme in the world’ and said that it would be better if the world follows the same system.
Rationale Behind Aadhar
The basic objective of the project was better targeting of subsidies and other benefits and to plug the leakages. It was also expected to eliminate middlemen, corruption, fraud and black-marketing in the transfer of subsidies and welfare schemes to the people.
The 12-digit unique number was first linked to schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), initially as part of Direct Benefit Transfer schemes. The subsidy/wages are directly transferred to the beneficiary to his/her bank account which is Aadhar-linked.
However, later enlarged the scope of Aadhar and it started serving as the basis for Know Your Customer (KYC) norms used by banks, financial institutions, telecom firms and other businesses that maintain customer profiles.
Aadhaar numbers will eventually serve as the basis for a database with which disadvantaged Indian residents can access services that have been denied to them due to lack of identification documents.
In March, the Aadhaar-linked DigiLocker service was launched, using which Aadhaar-holders can scan and save their documents on the cloud and can share it with the government officials whenever required without any need to carry them.
Private companies are also using Aadhar for background check authentications of the employees. Experts in the field claim Aadhaar seeded information eases authentication process, as half of the job is done by matching biometrics of a person before employment.
Aadhaar information is also being used widely by telecom companies for verifying antecedents of consumers, cutting down manual processes of physical verification.
If a person attaches the copy of Aadhar with the passport application form, the passport will be delivered within 10 days.
The Aadhaar Card ensures that the Provident Fund is disbursed directly to the pensioner's account. The pensioner must simply link the Card with their pension account. This saves time and effort.
Since March 2015, the government also called for linking Aadhar number with the voter ID card. Once all the voter ID cards are linked with Aadhar, bogus voting will be curbed.
The hoarding of black money can become difficult if Aadhaar is made compulsory while registration of property sale/purchase. The Tamil Nadu government has made Aadhar mandatory for registration of vehicles.
All the aforesaid characteristics of Aadhar are not just the benefits accruing to the individuals but the cumulative effect of Aadhar on the overall economy will be immense. Corruption, pilferage in funds earmarked for poor, tax evasion are some of the blots on the Indian economy which can be addressed by Aadhar. When a person’s bank account and PAN both are linked with Aadhar, it would be difficult for him to evade tax. Similarly, its use will curb the pilferage in the schemes launched for the benefits of poor.
The disadvantages of Aadhar are not actually the disadvantages but concerns on behalf of citizens. The most significant argument forwarded by the anti-Aadhar camp is the breach of the right to privacy. In August 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that right to privacy is a fundamental right enjoyed by all the citizens of the country. This ruling was considered as a shot in the arm for anti-Aadhar camp, however, the ruling doesn’t itself made Aadhar illegal. It will be seen in later hearings whether Aadhar breaches right to privacy not.
Another concern is that data once entered in UID system cannot be removed. A private citizen can never remove his biometric details from the system. Also, the Aadhar details are not fully secured. Till April 2017, as many as 21 incidents of Aadhar leakage or data breach have been reported. In Jharkhand, more than one million Aadhar numbers were leaked by the state government website itself.
As the Aadhar project is handled by private companies who won the auctions, a large amount of Aadhar data is shared with the private enterprises which can use it for their own benefit.
Indeed, the benefits accruing from Aadhar will be immense for the country but there is another side of Aadhar which may compromise the data. Nevertheless, the benefits of Aadhar outweigh the concerns. However, there is a lot more needed to be done to assure the security of the data shared by the individual with the government.
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