Six Aadhaar lessons from Maharashtra

State has set the golden standard in best practices in enrolment setting a high bar for other states

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | November 1, 2013


Farzana Pathan (right) withdrawing money transferred to her Aadhaar-linked bank account under Janani Suraksha Yojana.
Farzana Pathan (right) withdrawing money transferred to her Aadhaar-linked bank account under Janani Suraksha Yojana.

Farzana Pathan will always remember December 28th of 2012. On that day the young mother received money from the government directly into her account minutes after delivering her baby in the hospital. Not only that, she was also able to withdraw her Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) subsidy almost immediately with the help of a business correspondent (BC) carrying an Aadhaar-linked handheld micro ATM. Pathan’s Aadhaar-linked bank account made all the difference.

Santosh Thakur had almost given up on his attempts to open a bank account. He came to Navi Mumbai as a migrant worker a couple of years back and is today employed as a driver. With no documentation to prove his identity or address, each and every bank that he approached closed its doors on him. It was only after he enrolled in Aadhaar that he was finally able to open a bank account in Punjab National Bank (PNB).

Farzana and Santosh are two of the countless examples of unique identification (UID)-enabled financial inclusion that’s taking place in Maharashtra. 

“The state was the first to start UID in 2011 when it piloted it in the Thane district,” recalled Maharashtra information technology (IT) secretary Rajesh Agarwal proudly. Aadhaar was nationally launched only in 2013. “Wardha also become first district in the country to implement an end-to-end UID-linked direct benefits transfer (DBT) facility,” he added. The state is the leading registrar for UID enrolments, with Aadhaar numbers generated for 67 million out of the state’s total population of 73 million. There’s something that it is doing that’s yielding such spectacular results. It’s not often that one encounters such a large-scale government initiative implemented in such an efficient manner. So, what’s Maharashtra got right so far, which can be a beacon of hope for other states wanting to implement Aadhaar effectively and efficiently?

First, the state government involved public sector banks and the National Securities Depositories Limited (NSDL) to work as registrars to drive up enrolments. This single step enabled the process of final enrolment to be carried out by agencies appointed by these organisations. “After an open and transparent tendering process, agencies were appointed as L1 agencies on the basis of lowest bids,” said state IT director Virendra Singh. “Moreover, 13 agencies empanelled with UIDAI were appointed on the same rates through tenders. The district collectors (DCs) were also asked to appoint local agencies meeting the parameters.” As a result favouritism was eliminated and agencies meeting standards, and engaged through non-state registrars like public sector banks and NSDL, were allowed to start registration. This step also removed procedural delays associated with obtaining permissions from DCs.

Second, the policy regarding ‘know your resident’ (KYR) norms was changed. The earlier policy required the recording of additional data like ration card number and details of MNREGS job card. This was done away with, as this additional data would go to UIDAI’s Bangalore office to be processed slowing down the registration itself. Guidelines were also issued to do away with the requirement of a dedicated government verifier and the job was entrusted to enrolment agencies to have their own supervisory staff for verification.

“We also set up a UID innovation lab with state-of-art infrastructure where experiments relating to biometric cards and seeding of databases and bank accounts with Aadhaar are conducted,” said Agarwal. Maharashtra is the first state to establish a state resident data hub (SRDH) repository and will have standardised and cleaned data related to demographics, names, places and photographs that will help facilitate data integration with other social welfare services.

Third, the state did not hesitate to press into service extra computers and biometric capture machines when required. Maharashtra rolled out 4,000 computers for enrolments; the highest number of machines in the country. Such a rollout turned out to be a win-win for all parties involved. “Every successful UID generates money for the private company. Hence there was an incentive for the private sector companies to increase the footfalls at a centre. It also made private operators reach areas that otherwise would not have been reached,” explained Maharahtra’s principal consultant for IT Devroop Dhar. “As UID enrolment is a continuous process, 2,000 additional machines have been procured by the government to be installed at permanent UID centres.”

The UID kit includes a laptop, a monitor for a person who is registering, a printer for giving acknowledgement slip, an IRIS and fingerprint scanner and a web camera. In rural areas an inverter or generator is also provided.

Fourth, the state’s IT department came out with innovative measures to keep the project running in a self-sustaining manner. After all, enrolments require real hard cash. “The central government gave us Rs 50 per enrolment,” explained Agarwal. “The steps we took increased our efficiency resulting in us spending only '28 per enrolment last year. This saved us '22 per enrolment. This year the central government reduced their funding to '40 per enrolment, and our own cost has gone up to '28 per Aadhaar number. But we are still saving '12 per person.” With 67 million enrolments completed, the state government has saved over '90 crores till now, and more is expected. “It’s only from these savings that we were able to deploy an additional 2,000 machines on a permanent basis to deal with births and deaths,” said Dhar.

Fifth, the state created a proactive monitoring mechanism of checks and balances to ensure that the private agencies were uploading encrypted UID data and documents within a specific time-frame to the central servers in Bangalore. Agencies that were lagging behind were penalised, which created a sense of urgency among every stakeholder in the enrolment process. To ensure quality random survey and audit was done at the ground level and such checks were video-recorded and uploaded on the central servers. “This helped us to cross-check claims of the agencies with the actual progress at the ground level,” said Dhar.

Sixth, there was a special effort to rope in as many people as possible within the ambit of Aadhaar. During enrolments it was observed that in urban areas of Mumbai and its adjoining municipalities and Pune elderly people and others who went out to work were getting left out. “To plug this gap enrolment centres were set up in housing societies and company offices,” said Agarwal. “Mega centres with up to 25 UID machines were set up in certain urban centres that were overcrowded between 7 pm and 9 pm.” To enrol differently abled people mobile vans were put in service, and special camps were held for leprosy and oral cancer patients. “In order to increase our coverage potential an android-based application was also developed and deployed,” said Singh.  “Our teams also noticed that villages off highways and railway stations were being left out. To enrol this population in a planned manner a certain number of machines were exclusively deployed in those villages.”

The stupendous success achieved by Maharashtra is being noticed. The UIDAI itself has adopted the concept of self-seeding introduced by the state. “Under this concept '1 is transferred to a beneficiary bank account for the first time,” explained Agarwal. “It’s only when we get an acknowledgement does the rest of the subsidy amount get transferred.” This has eliminated duplication and as well as false beneficiaries. Several states have expressed interest in learning from Maharashtra. “We feel vindicated and are happy to lend our expertise to other states,” said a beaming Agarwal.

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