The Union government launched an Aadhaar-enabled service delivery system here on Saturday with a promise of eliminating fraud, black-marketing, pilferage in schemes and bribery through a reliable mechanism of direct cash transfer to beneficiaries in a transparent manner.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the ambitious programme, which seeks to integrate the government-run flagship schemes with the Aadhaar card system at a public meeting in this small town near Jaipur.
The launch marked second anniversary of the Unique Identification Citizenship Number Project.
A battery of Union Ministers present on the occasion highlighted the benefits associated with the integration of schemes with Aadhaar for stakeholders, ranging from better compliance management and reduced leakages to better accountability in service delivery and improvement in efficiency. Aadhaar card users can now directly access as many as six government schemes.
Dr. Singh gave away the 21st crore Aadhaar card to Bali Bai of Kurawad village in Udaipur district, while Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani pointed out that the names of over 24 crore citizens were registered for issue of cards in the past two years.
The first Aadhaar card was issued in Maharashtra on September 29, 2010.
In addition to getting the benefit of the social sector schemes promoting financial inclusion, those holding the Aadhaar card with a 12-digit number can offer proof of identity and address anywhere in the country. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act’s wages and pensions and scholarships will be paid though the card after the integration, even as the UID is already an online identity platform used for authenticating beneficiaries.
Dr. Singh said the Aadhaar project would benefit millions of people battling poverty, unemployment and diseases and facilitate the transfer of cash benefits directly to the accounts of beneficiaries. “It will ensure the extension of benefits to the deserving people and do away with the role of middlemen. Complaints on subsidy on gas connections, diesel and fertilizers not reaching the needy people will be resolved,” he said.
Role of modern technology
The Prime Minister affirmed that the Aadhaar project was an instance of the important role modern technology was playing in governance: “Our government wants to make maximum use of technology, especially IT, on a large scale to reduce dishonesty and improve transparency and accountability in the system.”
Dr. Singh said the UID system had proved its utility in States such as Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Maharashtra and it would be expanded to other parts of the country. “Sixty crore people are likely to get the UID number by 2014.”
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Road Transport and Highways Minister C. P. Joshi, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Minister of State for Finance Namonarain Meena, Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar, Minister of State for IT and Communication Sachin Pilot and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot were present.
Rajiv Gandhi’s vision
Ms. Gandhi said the Aadhaar project was the next step in the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s vision for the use of modern technology’s power to benefit the common man. “This is the biggest social inclusion scheme of its kind in the world. It will bring about a transformation in the common people’s lives and help them in getting subsidies [meant] for them.”
Mr. Chidambaram said the poor would benefit the most from Aadhaar cards as the government would be able to correctly identify beneficiaries of a wide range of schemes based on the UID number. “The ongoing pilot projects have also proved that Aadhaar is like a boon to beneficiaries.”
Mr. Gehlot said the State government would make the use of Aadhaar card mandatory for getting the benefit of 10 schemes. In addition to the Chief Minister’s below poverty line housing scheme, the public distribution system in Dudu, Chomu and Shahpura tehsils of Jaipur district would be connected shortly with the Aadhaar project on a pilot basis.
The ongoing Aadhaar-enabled service delivery initiatives in Andhra Pradesh, Aurangabad, Mysore, Ramgarh district in Jharkhand and West Tripura district were shown via live telecast at the venue.
The Prime Minister also presented the Aadhaar governance awards and Aadhaar excellence awards to nine government officers from different States.