Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Adhar: A Flagship Programme or an Unaccounted Scam?

Our maid lost her Aadhar card the other day and she was petrified, shedding the last drop of her sweat in fear. Since she is poor this card entitled her to subsidies which people like her are in dire need of, to live through the curse of poverty. She asked us for a day's leave which obviously we didn't refuse. What is interesting was the next day's conversation. Since her husband is uneducated just like her, they were accompanied by their fourteen year old son to the nearest Adhar office. They got the duplicate cards by providing the demographic information that was necessary. Now why this hurry was my question?

The cuts on ration and gas for the month of March couldn't be availed without adhar. Also the adhar would help when her son seeks admission to the Kendriya Vidyalaya in the coming academic year. Both these benefits would only be hers if she and her family possess an Adhar card. And unlike us, who have a passport or driving license to mark our identities, an Adhar or voter identity card are the unique identification cards for people belonging to her income group. Although Adhar in no way can adjudge citizenship like passports, the exasperation surrounding it can't be ignored.
The government at the centre introduced it as a flagship programme without the need to account for the reckless wasting of the taxpayer's money. Many like my maid would be cringed to know the truths behind this shameful scam.
Adhar doesn't identify a person unlike the voter's id or passport. It only collects information and links it to the biometric information of that person. It doesn't verify the ingenuity behind the information given, like the population census or police verification does. Adding to the chaos are the small private firms that are indulging in fraud, in the scheme of things. The money that is getting thrown away is not accounted for and many questions raised about its accountability by renowned MP's like Rajiv Chandrashekhar have been left unanswered.
Adhar doesn't grant citizenship and is being issued to illegal immigrants and non-citizens. This grants them the rights to avail of taxpayer funded subsidies and cash transfers, that is an exclusive right only the citizen of India should avail. It is also leading to the compromising of security making us sitting ducks to mishaps, that can be triggered by misusing the Indian identity.

Since Adhar uses old unverified information the subsidies and benefits that must go to the deserving citizens is getting leaked. Since the government has no database of people to whom such cuts must go and many who don't deserve it are availing of it, Adhar is only adding upto the costs borne by the government in giving subsidies. Benefits like subsidy on LPG are clear cases of how Adhar hasn't been able to direct benefits to lower income groups.
Adhar is leading to the compromise of privacy. In a large country like ours, information stored in the government's central database is prone to leaking since no robust laws of privacy are in place. Many times it also stands a chance of being sold all thanks to the corruption.
To direct subsidies and benefits to citizens in need of it, state level identification is the need of the hour. As the same financial policies won't benefit every state and its citizen, a centralized plan would be of no good. It would lead to the unequal distribution of subsidies and benefits.

                                             Image Courtesy: adhar-card.in

Adhar that began as a visionary movement with state of the art technology put to use, has been reduced to a comedy of errors. Leading to the extravagant wastage of the precious tax payer's money and no visions for the subsidies it aimed to provide. It is no way identifying citizens until and only if it gets linked to the National population register programme,which would also save on resources.

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