Offering a strong defence to attacks on Aadhaar being made mandatory for a host of services, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa has termed the Aadhaar card scheme as “revolutionary” and said that it should not be undermined as it has brought efficiency in public spending and removed corruption.
Speaking at the Assocham event, Lavasa said, “This platform of Aadhaar, which has been created should not be undermined.... Aadhaar seeding has brought more efficiency”.
Lavasa’s strong defence to the scheme comes at a time when a debate is raging over the security of personal data collected from the citizens of the programme.
Lavasa said that the scheme has helped the government save Rs 34,000 crore. “There has been some palpable achievement. In DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer)..order of saving would be Rs 34,000 crore,” he said.
Aadhaar – a unique 12-digit number is assigned to about 99 per cent of adult Indian residents – links some 84 government services and is used as an authenticating tool for giving pensions and money transfers.
The government has proposed to make Aadhaar mandatory for securing a permanent account number and for filing income-tax returns from July.
Speaking at an Assocham event, Lavasa said Aadhaar can become the single identity proof for an array of services.
"Aadhaar... is revolutionary... what it has done is something which has not been done anywhere in the world. You have 105 crore people who have a unique identity," he said.
While for long developed countries were admired for giving their citizens a single identity card, Aadhaar becoming a similar identity proof is "now a distinct possibility in India," he said.
Using Aadhaar as platform, the government initiatives like direct benefit transfer of subsidies has achieved unprecedented success. "It has made a significant impact," he said.
Aadhaar, a unique 12-digit number backed by biometrics including fingerprint and iris scans stored in a central database, began in 2009 to target payments to the poor across hinterland.
Use of Aadhaar has now been extended for filing income tax return, opening bank account and buying a mobile SIM card.
Earlier this week the Supreme Court had observed that Aadhaar can be used for all "non-benefit schemes like opening of bank accounts", but it should not be made mandatory for availing benefits under social welfare schemes.