Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has come up with a solution which could light the faces of private companies which were using Aadhaar data for lawful activities. He said that a new legislation could be brought which would allow banks and telecommunication to use Aadhaar data. “Most of what Aaadhar does has been upheld by the court. What has not been upheld falls in two categories. The bulk of that has been struck down on two principles. One is the principle of proportionality,” said Arun Jaitley at Hindustan Times leadership summit. Last week Supreme Court declared the use of Aadhaar data by private companies as unconstitutional. These companies could no longer make Aadhaar identification compulsory for their products and services.
Telecom companies and banks were not happy with this because Aadhaar has simplified customer verification to a great extent. According to bureaucrats, people need some kind of digital identity, “Digital identity is required across platforms. So it’s not a question of Aadhaar or mobiles alone. A lot of people, because they move to the digital mode, they need some form of digital identity. Now if it cannot be Aadhaar, what should it be. We have to evolve through this,” said Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Aruna Sundararajan. The authorities have started looking for a legally compliant digital identity, it could be Aadhaar through a new legislation or any new identity.
If the government brings a new legislation allowing private companies to use Aadhaar data under law then a new digital identity would not be needed. Aadhaar is one of the biggest digital identity programs in the world. Creating an alternate to this would not be possible in short time period. It would also require huge amount of money and effort. Therefore if something could be done under law, it would be big help for them. “What has been struck down is (the part referring to its use) by contract. By law, it (use of Aadhaar by a corporate body) can still be done, provided you do it under adequate provision of law, saying that in this field it may be necessary,” said the minister.
Arun Jaitley stressed on huge financial benefits to public from Aadhaar and justified bringing it as money bill. “Aadhaar is not a citizenship card. That is why it is a Money bill. It is used for distribution of monetary resources by the state. Last year, we saved Rs 90,000 crore (by use of Aadhaar in giving subsidies). It is four-five times the amount needed for Ayushman Bharat (a mega-health insurance scheme). I think the privacy concern was a bit overstated,” said Arun Jaitley.
In 2016-17 alone, the government saved plugging leakage worth Rs 32, 984 crore. DBT also made transfer of MGNREGA benefits more transparent and removed the middle man. DBT has been hugely beneficial for the government to control the leakage in delivery of public services.
There are talks that DBT could also be used for direct transfer of compensation to farmer’s account instead of using Minimum Support Price (MSP). “To make farming remunerative, the delivery of inputs should be made cost-effective through direct benefit transfer mode. Further, there are issues of procurement of perishables such as onions, potatoes and tomatoes for which timely disposal is necessary, and may be difficult for an agency to efficiently perform. After debating the same, support in the form of MSP (minimum support price) for crops other than rice and wheat needs to be shifted to DBT format,” wrote Economic Survey 2016-17. As the supreme verdict on Aadhaar has allowed the unique identity to be used for Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), government could use Aadhaar identity for many more schemes. As of now, government uses DBT for 465 schemes which range from LPG subsidy to college scholarships. “The Supreme Court judgment is a great step forward for use of technology in governance. Aadhaar is already being used in several areas, several state governments have used it. I am sure it will continue to be of great benefit to the society,” Arun Jaitley said. Universal Basic Income (UBI) is being debated among policy circles of the country and UID could also be used to transfer a fixed amount of income in people’s bank account for the purpose of welfare.
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