Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Aadhaar
Mains level: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
• The Supreme Court on Wednesday termed the cancellation of around three crore ration cards by the Centre due to non-linking with Aadhaar card as “too serious”, and sought response from the Central government and all states on the issue.
• A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said this matter should not be treated as adversarial as it is too serious a matter.
Conflict over SC Verdict:
• The Supreme Court of India. On 23 September 2013 the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that “no person should suffer for not getting Aadhaar”, adding that the government cannot deny a service to a resident who does not possess Aadhaar, as it is voluntary and not mandatory.
• On 24 August 2017 the Indian Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict affirming the right to privacy as a fundamental right, overruling previous judgments on the issue.
• In December 9, 2019, the top court had sought responses from all the states over allegations of starvation deaths of people who were deprived of their ration supplies for not having valid Aadhaar cards.
• Court Issue notice returnable in four weeks to the respondent States calling upon them to appraise steps they have taken for implementation of the grievances redressal mechanism contained in Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
• Notice may be served on the standing counsel for the state.
• Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identity number that can be obtained voluntarily by residents or passport holders of India, based on their biometric and demographic data.
• The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the government of India, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology,
• The provisions of the Aadhaar, (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.
• Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric ID system. World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer described Aadhaar as “the most sophisticated ID programme in the world”.
• Considered a proof of residence and not a proof of citizenship, Aadhaar does not itself grant any rights to domicile in India.
• In June 2017, the Home Ministry clarified that Aadhaar is not a valid identification document for Indians travelling to Nepal and Bhutan.
The unique identification scheme:
• The unique identification scheme has been in existence for more than a decade and recent data has estimated that nearly 90% of India’s projected population has been assigned the Aadhaar number.
• Following the Court’s judgment in 2018, upholding the Aadhaar programme as a reasonable restriction on individual privacy to fulfil welfare requirements and dignity a 4-1 majority Bench had also rejected a review petition in January 2021 —questions about the scheme’s validity for public purposes have been put to rest.
• But that has not meant that concerns about the failures in the use of the identity verification project have been allayed.
• These include inefficiencies in biometric authentication and updating, linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts, and the use of the Aadhaar payment bridge.
• With benefits under the PDS, the NREGA and LPG subsidy, among other essentials, requiring individuals to have the Aadhaar number, inefficiencies and failures have led to inconvenience and suffering for the poor.
The Failures in authentication:
• There are reports that show failures in authentication having led to delays in the disbursal of benefits and, in many cases, in their denial due to cancellation of legitimate beneficiary names.
• The government had promised that exemption mechanisms that would allow for overriding such failures will help beneficiaries still avail subsidies and benefits despite system failures.
• That has been the response by the government to the recent petition as well, but reports from States such as Jharkhand from 2017, for example, suggest that there have been starvation deaths because of the denial of benefits and subsidies.
The false negatives:
• Biometric authentication failures are but expected of a large scale and technology-intensive project such as the UID.
• Despite being designed to store finger and iris scans of most users, doubts about the success rates of authentication and the generation of “false negatives” have always persisted, more so for labourers and tribal people.
• Those engaged in manual and hard labour, for example, are susceptible to fingerprint changes over time. In practice, beneficiaries have tended to use Aadhaar cards as identity markers but there have been instances of people losing cards and being denied benefits.
• Given the scale of the problem, the central and State governments would do well to allow alternative identification so that genuine beneficiaries are not denied due subsidies.
• The question of fraud can still be addressed by the use of other verification cards and by decentralised disbursal of services at the panchayat level. But “Principle issue is cancellation of three crore ration cards and starvation death”.
• Despite the validity of Aadhaar being challenged in the court,the central government has pushed citizens to link their Aadhaar numbers with a host of services, including mobile sim cards, bank accounts, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, and a large number of welfare schemes.
Q.1) With reference to the U.K’s Turing scheme for students, consider the following statements:
1. The scheme will enable schools, colleges and universities in the UK to apply for government funding to allow students to study and work across the globe, including in India.
2. The scheme would be a global programme in which every country in the world will be able to partner with UK institutions.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) Inefficiencies in the Aadhaar project should not come in the way of welfare delivery. Critically comment on the statement.