Why don't U ID as well as I? PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 January 2012 01:41
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Judge UIDAI’s costs by the efficiency it promises

Though Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting on the UIDAI’s Aadhar scheme was put off as the government has yet to evolve a consensus on how to deal with it—the home ministry feels only its Registrar General of India should collect biometric data if this is to be secure/verified—there’s a simple solution that needs to be kept in mind when the Cabinet finally meets on the subject on Friday. If the home ministry continues to be of the view that only RGI biometric data is secure since RGI will also be verifying whether a person is a citizen/whether she lives at a certain place/etc, just carry on with the programmes in parallel. For the record, since UIDAI’s procedure eliminates the possibility of any individual getting more than one Aadhar number, it is unclear as to how this data is not secure.

While the home ministry doesn’t mind both UIDAI and RGI capturing the biometrics of a billion people—the data will be processed in a common back-end facility—the finance ministry is objecting to such wasteful expenditure. At R50 that UIDAI is giving for every successful capture of biometrics by any of the large number of ‘registrars’ across the country, that’s R5,000 crore of extra expenditure that will be incurred. This duplication of work and extra expenditure is also the primary reason why the Standing Committee found fault with the UIDAI Bill. Under normal circumstances, the finance ministry is right, but if push comes to shove, the R5,000 crore has to be juxtaposed with the benefits that will accrue from it. There is an unquantifiable social benefit when, with just authentication on a mobile platform in a village, a citizen can get the money due from various government schemes or get a money transfer from a friend/relative—keep in mind it is UIDAI which is putting in place an entire ecosystem to make this possible, not the home ministry’s RGI.

If you assume a reasonable 30-40% leakage in the R3-4 lakh crore the government spends each year on just subsidies (that’s the amount the government will spend this year on subsidies plus the R1.4 lakh crore the oil PSUs spend in addition), that’s a loss of R1.2 lakh crore each year. And the amount will increase dramatically with the Food Security Bill, the money to be spent on the Right to Education Act, and the New Pension Scheme (at R1,000 per poor working adult per year for 3 years, that alone is an expenditure upwards of R50,000 crore) among others. Compared to this, R5,000 crore is chump change, certainly not more than the amount various ministries should anyway be putting aside to ensure their schemes are reaching the target population.



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