Aadhaar is just a Subsidy Sudhaar Program – A (futile) debate in Rajya Sabha

When the govt. decided to introduce the #Aadhaar bill as part of the money bill, its fate was sealed or rather the law was sealed. After passing the bill in Lok Sabha, the debate that ensued in Rajya Sabha was very enlightening since it brought out the concerns raised back in 2012 and at the same time it was very tragic to learn about this debate since it had no bearing whatsoever on the bill.

The below is an excerpt from Jairam Ramesh’s debate in Rajya Sabha.

Lord Krishna had Opposition Members of the Rajya Sabha in mind when he advised Arjuna in Chapter 2: ”कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते संगोस्त्वकर्मणि।।” I feel in the same situation today. I am executing only my duty which is enjoined on me by Article 109 of the Constitution. I have no regard to the consequences of this debate because we all know what the end result of this debate is going to be.”

Jayaram Ramesh was the first one to use the Aadhaar idea,

  • the Aadhaar number in the payment of wages for Mahatma Gandhi NREGA
  • the payment of pensions under the National Social Assistance Programme
  • the delivery of food subsidies beginning in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh and then taken up in Chittoor district

The Aadhaar bill is not a money bill 

The hon. Leader of the House, in this House and in the other House, said, “Who are you to argue about the Aadhaar Bill being a Money Bill? The Juvenile Justice Bill in 1986 and the African Development Bank Bill in 1983 were declared as Money Bills. Who gives you the moral authority to argue?”

After reading 500 pages of the debate on both these bills and confirming the same with the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Mr. Ramesh argued that the Juvenile Justice Bill as a Money Bill and the African Development Bank Bill as a Money Bill were both manufactured.

Justification for Aadhaar:

The main justification for the Aadhaar was Rs 14,000 crore savings on the LPG subsidy in the first year of the introduction of Aadhaar based Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). Mr Ramesh disputed this claim and further argued that a London based think tank called the International Institute for Sustainable Development which says the following: “Publicly available information clearly demonstrates that the Aadhaar based DBT was not responsible for identifying and blocking 3.3 crore connections or even a significant fraction of that during any part of the financial year.”

2010 Aadhaar bill is not the same as the 2016

The 2010 bill was referred to the standing committee after which the bill was vetoed lock, stock and barrel.

The Rajya Sabha leader  accussed Mr Ramesh that where he stands on the issue depends on where he sits. Mr Ramesh in his defence said, “I supported GST when I stood there and I support GST when I am sitting here. I supported Aadhaar when I was there and I support Aadhaar when I am here. I supported the Land Acquisition Bill there and I support the Land Acquisition Bill here. On all these three, the former Leader of the Opposition and his Party have changed their minds when they have gone from here to there.”

Amendments proposed by the minister

  • Aadhaar must be used but only on a voluntary basis.
  • It does not determine who is eligible and who is not eligible. Aadhaar is proof of identity. It says if I am eligible, I am who I am. It does not determine that just because I have an Aadhaar number, I am entitled to a subsidy. No. That is not the idea. It is just a proof of identity. This Aadhaar is a subsidy sudhaar programme because fakes, duplicates are a reality.  Mr Jairam Ramesh’s experience with NREGA, in PDS, in old age pensions shows that the fake and duplicate,  which ranged anywhere from 8 per cent to 15 per cent, got eliminated. But it does not determine who is entitled for pension. It does not determine who is entitled for wages. It does not determine who is entitled for subsidy.
  • The government is in a JAM J for Jan Dhan Yojana, A for Aadhaar, M for Mobile. Without J and M, A is useless bread. Aadhaar by itself does not solve the problem.
  • There should be a legislation for Aadhaar and a legilsation for the UID Authority.
  • Let Aadhaar be confined to the targeting of subsidies.
  • Individuals must have the flexibility to opt out of Aadhaar
  • Privacy is a big issue. The law, as presently stands, gives sweeping powers under the name of national security, which has very broad implications. Instead it should be only for public safety and public emergency.
  • There are a number of clauses which give power to the UID Authority under regulation. Whatever is to be done, must be done and passed by the Parliament. No power should be delegated to the UID authority.
  • 40% of the Jan Dhan account holders which had Aadhaar numbers, have not been able to access their stories based on a report by a leading newspaper.
  • This is not an argument for not using Aadhaar; this is just an argument for caution for moving slowly because we have problems of connectivity, we have problems of biometrics, we have problems associated with old people and their biometrics becoming unreliable

Mr Jairam Ramesh concluded the debate by saying “So, I think anybody who raises questions on Aadhaar is not anti-national, anybody who raises questions on Aadhaar is not anti-technology, and anybody who raises questions on this legislation, it is not that he does not want subsidy sudhaar. We want to reform the regime of subsidies. If you use the Aadhaar properly, the Government stands to save anywhere between 40,000 crores and ` 45,000 crores a year”

Source: http://rsdebate.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/659299/2/PD_238_16032016_p388_p466_35.pdf#search=Aadhaar


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