UIDAI on a roll as Aadhaar gets Modi government's nod

Decision taken at high-level meet with PM, Rajnath, Jaitley and top officials; UIDAI set to continue to report to planning commission and, eventually, to PM

pratap

Pratap Vikram Singh | July 5, 2014 | New Delhi




Going against speculation that he would do away with UPA’s ambitious UID project, prime minister Narendra Modi has decided to continue with the Aadhaar scheme and its usage in direct transfer of fuel subsidy and social security payments.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by the prime minister on Saturday, Governance Now has learnt.

Senior cabinet ministers Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, minister of state for planning, statistics and programme implementation Rao Inderjit Singh, home and planning commission secretaries and mission director of unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) were present at the meeting.

Governance Now had reported on July 3 that money has been allocated for UIDAI in the budget, to be presented on July 10, and that the Aadhaar scheme would continue to operate (read UPA's pet UIDAI set to get Rs 2,000 cr in Modi budget).

According to two senior government officials working with different ministries who are familiar with developments in today’s meeting, said UIDAI will continue to report to the planning commission and, eventually, to the prime minister. Of late, there have been reports, most of them quoting anonymous officials in the home ministry, that the national population register (NPR) will soon overtake the UIDAI database and also the enrollment.  

Reports also indicated that UIDAI, at best, would be merged with NPR, if not scrapped altogether.

But one of the officials said that a merger was never being mulled between UIDAI, which completed its target of 60 crore enrolment before time, and NPR, which could not cover beyond 10 crore. “How can a highly efficient system be merged with an inefficient system,” he asked.

The two officials said that Modi, in today’s meeting, has agreed that UIDAI would enroll another 30 crore people in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. These states were supposed to be covered by the NPR but were given to UIDAI due to slower pace of enrollment.

Taking back the responsibility of enrollment in these four states from the authority was also among the demands made by the home ministry, according to some media reports. 

Apparently, no UIDAI representative was called in inter-ministerial meetings after formation of the new government. This was UIDAI’s first presentation to the prime minister.

According to sources, there is also an agreement on introducing the pending national identification authority of India bill in parliament. The officials, however, are not clear whether it would be done in the budget session, beginning Monday.

The Congress-led UPA government had made Aadhaar mandatory for transfer of fuel subsidy to consumers, with intent to eliminate ghost LPG cylinder connections and control its diversion to open market. A UIDAI official said the countrywide DBTL (direct benefit transfer of LPG cylinder) rollout could lead to savings of Rs12,000 crore, if one were to extrapolate the figures for savings accrued in 100 districts where it was aggressively implemented early this year.

“No government will be foolish to scrap the most efficient model of distributing subsidy,” the UIDAI official said, referring to the possible gains of using Aadhaar in service delivery.

Earlier, Governance Now had reported that the government has approved a budget of Rs 2,000-crore for UIDAI for this financial year. Without giving out the exact figure earmarked for UIDAI in the budget, to be presented by Arun Jaitley on July 10, the official told Governance Now that “funds are not going to be an issue any longer”. He added that the Modi government has approved of all existing operations.

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