My article contained three broad sets of arguments. First it argued that when subsidies in kind are converted into cash transfers there is a multiplier effect that would be inflationary in the present economic situation. Second, Aadhaar can provide a unique identification to the individual, but the fingerprints and iris it relies on tell us nothing on whether the individual is poor or deserving of the subsidy in any other way. It cannot therefore stop the leakage that occurs when the undeserving are identified as the poor. Since the honourable minister and Mr. Pande have nothing to say on these issues, I take it that they agree.
Third, in the adverse circumstances some beneficiaries find themselves in, they could still be deprived of money that reaches their bank account. This is now to be addressed through a system of Business Correspondents (BC) who will deliver the money at the doorstep. Only time will tell us whether a dense network of BCs will prove to be less corrupt than the current network. But the older generation that used to be dependent on money-orders may be a little more sceptical. It was hardly unusual for the postman delivering money orders, in a time that was widely considered less corrupt, to expect a certain monetary appreciation.
The honourable minister and Mr. Pande are right in calling for pragmatic, rather than ideological, solutions to the problem. But surely they can do better than merely covering the patronage politics involved in choosing beneficiaries with the gloss of technology.
(Narendar Pani is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.)