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July 09, 2020

Essay : Aadhar Card - A Necessity or a Burden

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Essay on AADHAAR A necessity or an obligation?

The government made it mandatory in March 2016 for an individual to link Aadhaar number with bank account, PAN number, mobile number and receipt of benefits from other government services. The Aadhaar had not been mandatory for government schemes till that time.

The Aadhaar programme was initiated in 2009 by the Government of India and comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The Aadhaar data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory body. Aadhaar is the world's largest biometric identification system with 1.23 billion holders as of 18th March, 2019. The Aadhaar is a 12 digit number assigned by UIDAI. Aadhaar is generated when an individual's biometric data (photograph, iris scan and fingerprint) and demographic (name, date of birth, address) information is provided. The Aadhaar is issued free of cost. It acts as an identification proof and (by many agencies) as proof of residence. Aadhaar, however, is not a card of citizenship; therefore even migrants can obtain it.

The government had intended to make Aadhaar mandatory for all government services and for availing benefits of government welfare schemes. The mandatory use of Aadhaar can have the benefits like 
  1. It can help the government in better identification of government schemes; bogus 'ghost' beneficiaries can be eliminated. 
  2. It can help government save crores of rupees which are lost due to leakages and corruption. 
  3. The Aadhaar will provide an identification card to the people mostly from rural and poor background who lack proper documents and in the wake of this are not able to avail many government benefits. The Aadhaar will provide these people an identification document to open a bank account, to avail loans, to get passport etc. 
  4. The Aadhaar will help in bringing transparency, efficiency and efficacy in the system. The quality of services and reach of the services to the beneficiaries will both improve. 
  5. Government initiatives such as DigiLocker, BHIM App, DBT scheme, pensions etc. can be availed if one has an Aadhaar number. 
Aadhaar is seen as a necessity because it can prove to be a milestone in improving the quality of our services and schemes and also reduce the cost of subsidies. It is because of these benefits that the government is stressing on making Aadhaar mandatory and also brought the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. Originally, the Aadhaar card was supposed to be voluntary, but this Bill made enrollment compulsory if one wanted to avail benefits from government services. The Bill contained a blanket 'national security' clause, a clause bound to induce misuse. This provision and other provisions in the Aadhaar Act made various persons file writ petitions in the Supreme Court against it, as they felt that the Aadhaar was more of a burden on them and had been forced on them.

In its judgement on all these writ petitions given on 26th September, 2018, the Supreme Court declared the Aadhaar to be constitutional and said that it could be brought in as a money bill. The court also ruled that the use of Aadhaar for welfare schemes should continue and also upheld the validity of linking Aadhaar to PAN cards. However, the court held that linking of Aadhaar numbers to bank accounts was unconstitutional.

The majority judgement of the court also struck down Section 57 to the Aadhaar Act of 2016, holding that private companies cannot insist on Aadhaar numbers from citizens to provide services. This is good news for people fed up of being asked to produce an Aadhaar everywhere they go, at banks, phone companies or even to access private buildings.

When the Aadhaar programme was initiated in 2009, it was said that the enrollment under Aadhaar will be voluntary but, with the Aadhaar Act, it had been made mandatory for linking with bank accounts, which was not acceptable to many in a democratic country India. There are people who have many other identity proofs such as driving licence, office IDs, PAN card, passport etc. They do not feel the need of another identity card. They see Aadhaar as an unnecessary pain for them.

Apart from viewing Aadhaar as a burden, it is also a cause of concern for some of them. Many people are concerned about privacy, of their personal information, as Aadhaar number generation requires biometric information too. They fear that their personal information can be misused by the state in normal circumstances and by non-state actors and other countries in case of cyber attacks and cyber crimes. At present, India does not have adequate infrastructure to ensure the safety of the online information/data received under the Aadhaar project. 

The concerns of the citizens about their privacy, misuse of data, leakage of information etc. are some of the points which hinder total acceptance of Aadhaar by people. That is why the Aadhaar Bill was challenged in the Supreme Court. Despite all the concerns, Aadhaar is seen as an important initiative and a unique opportunity for improving our government system, our quality of services and service delivery. It is a move towards more citizen-centric governance and a move to make the life of people easier. 

Difficult Words with Meanings :

  • Statutory permitted by law
  • Biometric identification automatic identification of a living person by using the person's physical characteristics
  • Iris scan electronic scan of the eye for identification
  • Demographic identification details like name, date of birth etc
  • Migrants people from other countries who have shifted their residence to India
  • Ghost having a false identity
  • Leakages sums of money removed illegally
  • Transparency clarity
  • Efficacy capacity to produce the desired effect
  • DBT Direct Benefit Transfer for hanging out government subsidies
  • Citizen-centric based on the needs of the people.

shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani

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