Though the people did not respond positively to the UID, the humungous numbers of card holders indicate that the benefits are showing
This was the big idea that was conceived and kickstarted by the Congress led UPA government but it was finally implemented by the BJP-led NDA government. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi is harvesting the fruits of Aadhaar number - created and issued by Unique Identification Authority
UIDAI was created in January 2009 as an organisation affiliated to Planning Commission of India with an aim to issuing one unique dentity number to each citizen thereby removing more than one identity and to enable easy and cost-effective verification of citizen’s identity. The first Aadhaar was issued on September 29, 2010 to a citizens of Nandurbar in Maharashtra. The number is issued only after biometric verification including iris and fingerprints and is issued free of cost.
Though Prime Minister Modi had some apprehensions of Aadhaar database being misused, but once convinced about its genuineness he harnessed its full potential - routing everything though Aadhaar be it food or LPG subsidies or railway reservation or bank account. This would mean, that the government now transfers the money meant to be given to a person - whether it’s old age pension, LPG subsidy or even PDS subsidy - directly in to his bank account. This would rule out eliminate the role of middlemen.
And statements like - less than 16 per cent of government money trickles down to the people it is meant for - are fast becoming a thing of the past.
Earlier, to fulfill their KYC (know your customer) requirement as mandated by the government, banks used to ask for customer’s PAN (Permanent Account Number of Income Tax Department) before opening a bank account. But with barely four crore tax payers in the country, many people did not have a PAN. Aadhaar solved this issue as well.
With over 108 crore Aadhaar cards having been issued already, the scheme has covered almost 94 per cent adult population of the country.
And that was why PM Modi was so sure about the success of his decision to demonetise 500 and 1,000 rupee currency notes. With almost everybody having a bank account been given a unique identity number, manipulating bank accounts won’t be easy, Modi must have calculated.
That he had planned well in advance for demonetisation, was clear when he asked banks to open Jan Dhan (zero balance) accounts with a debit card, for each and every person in the country. Some economic thinkers had forecasted that with everyone having access to plastic money, the Government will reduce access to paper money. But, its extent - 86 per cent of entire currency in circulation - was hard to be conceived.
It might have been an area of concern that only 67 per cent children in the 5-18 age group and 20 percent of those aged zero to 5, were having Aadhaar number, but the fast pace at which Aadhaar number is being issued, it can be safely assumed that the day is not far when even children would be having their Aadhaar as soon as they take first few breaths in the world. Government figures show that approximately seven lakh Aadhaar numbers are being issued every day. That he was keen to introduced a cashless economy was indicated by his zeal to promote Aadhaar. At an elaborate meeting of officials of several ministries including IT, Petroleum, Finance, Banking, Agriculture and Rural Development, he had reviewed progress of the UID scheme and the benefits accruing out of it.
The meeting concluded that the ground situation was changing very fast and people had actually lapped up Aadhaar and benefits associated with it.
The Prime Minister was informed that more than Rs61,000 crore had been distributed to more than 30 crore beneficiaries using the direct transfer system during 2015 alone. This included payments under the rural employment scheme or MNREGA, as well as subsidy benefits for LPG cylinders.
The meeting concluded that the government was making big savings because of far fewer leaks in the transfer of benefits, and that a major improvement has arisen from weeding out fake or duplicate beneficiaries. As many as 1.6 crore bogus ration cards have been deleted leading to a saving of 10,000 crore to the Government during last year. And linking MNREGA payments with Aadhaar, led to a savings of 3,000 crores- nearly 10 percent of the entire annual budget of the reform.
So far, 25.48 crore bank accounts, over 71 per cent cooking gas connections and over 45 per cent ration cards are linked with the identification programme. The UIDAI authenticates over 40 lakh transactions per day.
The total number of Aadhaar Enabled Payment System transactions has gone up to 10.76 crore as on March 31, 2016, as against 46 lakh logged till May 31, 2014. And after demonetisation, per day transactions are estimated to have gone past 20-25 crores.Another bold move of the Modi government is to create the equivalent of Aadhaar or a unique ID for non-governmental organisations or NGOs participating in state-run schemes. 71,000 NGOs have been registered so far.
As demonetisation decision shows, the Prime Minister is committed to implement tough economic reforms and he is even ready to put his entire political capital at stake for it. A bitter pill administered to a patient doesn’t endear him at the moment. The patient, however, does show gratitude.
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