All you wanted to know about Aadhaar

What is Aadhaar? Aadhaar, which means foundation or basis, is the name for unique identification numbers (UID) issued by a statutory body to every resident of India. The objective of Aadhaar is to create an easy, cost-effective proof of identity that is hard to duplicate and eliminates fake identities. It proves identity, not citizenship. Aadhaar is issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The UIDAI was created by a notification of the Planning Commission on January 28, 2009. The UIDAI got statutory backing when the Aadhar Act was passed by Parliament in 2016, though even that has been legally challenged.

Why is it needed?

Multiple government-issued documents proving identity—ration card, driving licence, passport, Permanent Account Number (PAN)-had led to a situation where duplication and forgery had become common. More importantly, and the primary reason for Aadhaar, the long road to beneficiaries of government subsidies and services was beset with corruption and leakage. One of the government’s major missions is the JAM plan for financial inclusion of the masses: linking millions of zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts that have been opened for the poor with Aadhaar numbers and Mobile numbers so as to effect direct transfers of subsidies and benefits. Over the years, Aadhaar has become linked with scores of government schemes, including LPG subsidy and mid-day meals for children in government schools. In 2009, Aadhaar was thus envisaged as a tamper-proof unique identity for every resident, the biometric component of the enrolment—iris  and fingerprint scans—making it unique and solid. Aadhaar now covers 99 per cent of the Indian population, and is the largest and most sophisticated programme of its kind in the world.

 So what’s the problem?

The Aadhaar initiative has three major problem areas, and these are the major issues that will now be resolved by the Supreme Court :
  1. Compulsory nature: Why must there be a mandatory scheme for the government to fulfil its statutory and social responsibilities?
  2. Privacy and threat of surveillance: The linkage of Aadhaar to bank accounts, mobile numbers, income tax filings among a host of other government services and schemes raises the issue of violation of privacy and surveillance of individuals. In other words, if the government has its way, everything an India resident does can be known to those with access to the UIDAI database. The potential for misuse is huge.
  3. Data theft concerns: What if the repository of all things Aadhaar is hacked? In the information age, data is the new currency, and such incredibly detailed and authentic personal data a goldmine. What if the private firms involved in the data collection leak it, or worse, sell it?
Other issues pertain to linkage of Aadhaar with PAN, upheld recently by the Supreme Court with some relaxation for those yet to get Aadhaar, and the challenge to the Aadhaar Act being passed as a money bill, which is a matter with the apex court now.

What’s happening in the Supreme Court?

A number of petitions have been filed against the Aadhaar scheme and now the law since 2014. These pleas, 22 of them, have been bundled into one case which will now be heard by a Constitution Bench, starting later in November. The Aadhaar petitions say the use of biometric information is a violation of physical and informational privacy, that Aadhaar’s mandatory nature restricts the freedom of citizens, and that the law backing the scheme is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has delivered judgements and made observations on some aspects of Aadhaar in recent years. Here are some of the key ones: September 23, 2013: In an interim order, the Supreme Court says the Aadhaar numbers cannot be made mandatory for availing the benefits of government services and subsidies. August 11, 2015: A three-judge bench says Aadhaar enrolment must be voluntary, restricts its use to only Public Distribution System (price-controlled rations) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) distribution. September 14, 2016: Restraining the Centre from making Aadhaar number a mandatory requirement for the purpose of grant of scholarships, Supreme Court reiterates that Aadhaar could not be made a mandatory condition for any government scheme. June 9, 2017: The Supreme Court upholds the validity of an Income Tax law amendment linking PAN with Aadhaar for filing tax returns and making Aadhaar or Aadhaar enrolment slip compulsory to apply for a Permanent Account Number (PAN) card. It does, however, issue a ‘partial stay’ on a proviso which mandates that those who do not link Aadhaar with PAN by July 1 would invite automatic invalidation of their PAN. June 27, 2017: The Supreme Court refuses to pass an interim order against a Central government notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes. August 24, 2017: The Supreme Court rules that the right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution. A nine-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar rules that “right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution”. The government will now have to convince the court that the right to privacy is limited only by fair, just and reasonable “procedure established by law”.

Read at Lokmarg

Constitution Bench to hear Aadhaar petitions

How many government schemes are linked to Aadhaar now?

Well over a hundred at last count, though the rush to link Aadhaar with services and government schemes is on hold now that the apex court is dealing with it. Aadhaar is needed or linked to:
  1. Proof of identity to obtain documents and services like passport, driving licence, railway tickets and concessions, open bank accounts, getting a landline or mobile phone connection, obtaining insurance.
  2. To help clean up electoral rolls
  3. To file Income Tax returns
  4. Maintain a provident fund account, and to invest in mutual funds
  5. Digital payment platforms: Unified Payment Interface and BHIM app introduced by the government
  6. Direct transfers of subsidies to accounts of beneficiaries
No less than 92 Central government schemes run from 19 ministries are part of the direct benefit transfer mechanism (DBT), the first major Aadhaar initiative. These are:
  • PAHAL, the Hindi abbreviated name of the government scheme that directly transfers LPG subsidy to accounts of beneficiaries.
  • Cash transfer for food subsidies
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or MGNREGS, a social security measure that seeks to generate employment and provide the right to work.
  • List of Centrally sponsored schemes linked to Aadhaar:
  • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme
  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme
  • Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (Grameen)
  • BSR Doctoral Fellowship in Sciences
  • Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Post Doctoral Fellowship In Humanities
  • Emeritus Fellowship
  • Kothari Post Doctoral Fellowship in Sciences
  • National Research Professorship
  • Ishan Uday Scholarship Scheme for North Eastern Region
  • National Eligibility Test-Junior Research. Fellowship
  • P.G. Indira Gandhi Scholarship for Single Girl Child
  • P.G. Scholarship for Professional Courses for SC or ST candidates
  • P.G. Scholarship for University Rank Holders
  • PG Scholarship for GATE qualified PG Students
  • PMSSS for J and K Students admitted in rest of India
  • Post Doctoral.Fellowship for Women
  • Post- Doctoral Fellowship for SC or ST Candidates
  • Pragati Scholarship for girls Diploma Institutes
  • Pragati Scholarship for girls in Degree Colleges
  • QIP for faculty deputed for PhD studies at QIP centers
  • Saksham Scholarship for differently abled students of Degree College
  • Saksham scholarship for differently abled students of Diploma Institutes
  • Scholarship To Universities /College Students
  • Swami Vivekananda Single Girl Child Scholarship
  • Artistes Pension Scheme and Welfare Fund
  • Financial Assistance for the Cultural Function Grant Scheme
  • Financial Assistance for the development of Buddhist / Tibetan Organizations
  • Financial Assistance to Cultural Organization
  • International Cultural Relation
  • Production Grant
  • Repertory Grant Scheme
  • Scheme for the Award of Fellowship to outstanding persons in the field of Culture
  • Scheme for Scholarships to Young Artistes in different cultural fields
  • Tagore National Fellowship for Cultural Research
  • Maternity Benefit Programme
  • Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage
  • National Means Cum Merit Scholarship
  • National Scheme For Incentive For The Girl Child For Secondary Education
  • Maulana Azad National Fellowship
  • Merit Cum Means Scholarship For Minorities
  • Post Matric Scholarship Scheme For Minorities
  • Pre Matric Scholarship Scheme For Minorities
  • Housing Subsidy To Beedi Workers
  • Housing Subsidy To Iron/Manganese/Chrome Ore Workers
  • Housing Subsidy To Lime Stone and Dolomite LSDM Workers
  • Rehabilitation Assistance
  • Scholarship To The Children of Lime Stone and Dolomite LSDM Workers
  • Scholarship To The Children of Beedi Workers
  • Scholarship To The Children of Cine Workers
  • Scholarship To The Children of Iron/Manganese/Chrome Ore Workers
  • Stipend to children in the special schools under the National Child Labour Project
  • Stipend to Differently Abled Candidates under Scheme of Vocational Rehabilitation Centre
  • Stipend To Trainees Under The Scheme Of Welfare Of SC/ST Job Seekers
  • Post-matric Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities
  • Pre-matric scholarship for Persons with disabilities
  • Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for students
  • Scholarship for Top Class Education
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana
  • Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana
  • Life Insurance-linked with Jan Dhan Yojana
  • Assistance for procurement of modified scooter
  • Assistance for purchase of Tool Kits
  • Assistance for treatment of cancer and dialysis
  • Assistance for treatment of listed serious diseases
  • Interest subsidy on home loan upto max Rs 1 lakh
  • Prime Minister Scholarship Scheme

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