Admitting that Aadhaar was a “great initiative” of the previous UPA government, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said it was being expanded by making the card mandatory for direct benefit transfer of subsidy and checking of tax evasion.
Replying to a debate on the Finance Bill in the Rajya Sabha, he made it clear that while hacking could not be prevented, this threat could not be used as an excuse to discredit the technology or curb its use.
“....some of us at some stage had doubts (about Aadhaar). Immediately when this government was formed, the Prime Minister took a presentation and I was present.
“I put across some doubts some of which were raised even by your colleagues when you were in government. They were answered adequately and we were candid to say that we accept that it was a great initiative and we will expand the initiative. We accepted that, I have no hesitation in this,” he said.
Responding to repeated questions by the Congress members as to why Aadhaar was being made mandatory, he countered by asking why this technology should not be utilised since it was created for public benefit.
“As we learnt from the benefit of that technology and the strength of that technology, can it be used to make sure that benefits are not misused? Can we make it for direct benefit transfer? Can we use it for detecting any form of tax misrepresentation or frauds.
“Now these are all areas which we are now expanding into. I share the concern and that is why there is a provision in the Act that privacy norms must be maintained, it can’t be made public,” Jaitley said.
For availing benefits, he said one can produce an Aadhaar card and or any other proof as an identity and simultaneously apply for Aadhaar.
Congress leader P Chidamabaram asked whether the government can guarantee that information related to bank accounts and IT returns of any individual would not be leaked through hacking.
To this, the Finance Minister said, “the fact that technology can be broken into is never an argument which is given for not using technology.”
He said while hacking could not be ruled out, the firewalls should be made stronger and the Aadhaar legislation has some provisions with regard to this.
“If the firewalls can be broken and hacking can take place, the hacking can take place anywhere,” he said, adding “Hacking does not take place because of Aadhaar” and referred to such an incident that took place at the Pentagon in the US.
When referred to the leakage of Aadhaar details of cricketer M S Dhoni, Jaitley said it was the result of an “immature” act by somebody in Ranchi against whom action has been taken.
“Don’t compare it (Aadhaar) with what happened yesterday with Mr Dhoni because this was a case where some individual miscounducted for a crave of a selfie or a photograph and he is being blacklisted for ten years. It was an immature behaviour of the person,” the finance minister said.
He reasoned that the idea therefore not to use technology or to go in only for obsolete methods of collection of documents is not the answer.
(With PTI inputs)