Aadhaar That Excludes

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By Mukta kaushik

NEW DELHI : Aadhaar program which was launched with the main objective to provide universal identity to every Indian resident was considered to be government’s tool for inclusion but due to implementation flaws has become a device for exclusion. A recent study conducted by Jean Dreze and his co-authors in the state of Jharkhand has verified this fact.

Aadhaar Assisted Biometric Authentication (AABA) was implemented in Jharkhand which has a major tribal population. There have been multiple reports of authentication failures thus affecting the most vulnerable segments of the society in the most vulnerable areas. Ironically, these are the people who have greatest need for subsidized food. Starvation deaths highlight the seriousness of the problem but do not reveal its magnitude in terms of the number of people adversely affected.

During survey it was found that exclusion errors were as high as 20% in areas where biometric authentication was required for every sale. The response of UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority ofIndia) to such reports was blanket denial. UIDAI maintained that it only provides a platform and applications such as PDS that use aadhaar are within the domain of their respective ministries.

The major contradiction of the current design is that it places PDS dealer in charge of making biometrics work for each beneficiary every month. Some, years ago Madhya Pradesh (MP) government devised a scheme where biometric authentication would be done only once a year and that too by agencies unconnected with PDS. On that basis, households were given coupons to be cashed at fair-price shops. Coupons were barcoded to prevent duplication and misuse. Commission to administer scheme were indexed to volume. Thus, it did not rely on PDS dealer to make it work. Thus, what is required are designs that are “Aadhaar Light” and can be implemented effectively.

1. Kotwal A and Ramaswami B (2018), ‘AAdhaar that doesn’t exclude’.

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