50% poor up for benefits are yet to link Aadhaar
MISSION MODE Union govt shoots off letter to state social welfare depts to bridge the gap
NEW DELHI: More than half the poorest of India’s poor, entitled to monthly doles, have not had their Aadhaar details verified with the authorities, prompting the Centre to push the states to bridge the gap in a “mission mode”.
The Centre acted in line with the September judgment of the Supreme Court that allowed the government to make the 12-digit unique identity number mandatory for accessing government subsidies and welfare schemes, while ordering that it could not make it a condition for operating bank accounts or buying mobile phone connections.
The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) is targeted at the old, widowed, disabled and pregnant members of poor households.
Officials argue that seeding of Aadhaar with bank or post office savings accounts and biometric details, and getting them verified by state governments makes it easier for people to receive payments.
On November 1, Union rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha wrote to states that “out of the 2.84 crore registered beneficiaries of NSAP, Aadhaar seeding in respect of 1.92 crore has been completed and out of these seeded Aadhaar numbers, 1.02 crore beneficiaries are such in whose cases Aadhaar entries have been verified.”
“The ... gap between total number of beneficiaries and beneficiaries with verified Aadhaar number is huge and needs special efforts from your end,” the letter to social welfare secretaries in the states, a copy of which has been seen by Hindustan Times, said.
The rural development ministry, which anchors several social schemes including the NSAP, has been using the unique identity, clubbed with the Socio-economic Caste Census data, to identify beneficiaries and transfer the money to their accounts, bypassing possible routes of leakage.
NSEP includes the National Old Age Pension Scheme for the destitute aged above 65 years; a disability pension grant to a bereaved household upon death of the “primary breadwinner”; and the National Maternity Benefit Scheme of monetary help to women during pregnancy.
Sinha asked the states to complete the verification exercise “without any further delay.” He also underlined that to address the potential failure of Aadhaarbased authentication, “alternative methods for identifying such persons shall be adopted after finding the causes of failure.”
Economist Ritika Khera said the use of Aadhaar in NSAP was a “terrible idea” that may lead to exclusion and other problems for the beneficiaries. “In an Aadhaar-based system, no one else can withdraw money in a recipient’s account.