social security net

Primed for change, but only 3.2% Assamese have Aadhaar

Only 1.04 million of the state's 32 million people had Aadhaar identities as of March 2016.

A 65-year-old citizenship issue, reflecting the strains of migration, has resulted in no more than 3.2% of Assam being enrolled in Aadhaar, India’s biometrics-based unique identity system, the world’s largest.

Voting in Assam has concluded (results are scheduled for May 19th), and the new government will inherit a state with some of India’s lowest development indicators – the country’s highest maternal mortality, the worst infant mortality; low literacy ranking (26th of 35 states/union territories) – and growing aspirations.

With no more than 0.3% (8,994) of 2.9 million LPG consumers in Assam linked to Aadhaar as on December 7, 2015 (the national average is 61%), the lack of unique identities will preclude the spread of related social-security benefits and programmes.

Five-and-a-half years after the programme started, a billion Indians (93%) are now issued with a 12-digit identification number called Aadhaar (Hindi for foundation), and more than 500,000 are enrolled every day. As of April 4, 2016, 1,000,856,739 Indians (not necessarily citizens) received Aadhaar identities, according to the Unique Identification Authority of India.

With the Aadhaar identity increasingly linked to variety a government payments, Assam will find it hard to implement many of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s technology-driven social-security programmes.

Held back by disputes over citizenship and unease over migration from Bangladesh, the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur do not mirror the speed of Aadhaar’s nationwide spread. In Assam, no more than 1.04 million of 32 million people (3.2%) had Aadhaar numbers on March 31 2016, followed by Meghalaya (3.5%).

 Source: Unique Identification Authority of India
Source: Unique Identification Authority of India

“Enrolment in Assam has started in only three districts – Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur – probably because of National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue in the state because of which operations are yet to be started in full-swing,” LK Pegu, Unique Identification Authority of India Deputy Director General, Guwahati Regional Office, told IndiaSpend. “So, penetration is low.”

The NRC is a register with information of all Indian citizens, first prepared after the 1951 Census. It contains the names of citizens, based on electoral rolls up to 1971 and the 1951 NRC.

Following the creation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) in 1971, illegal migration into Assam has risen, with violent agitations since the 1970s over the issue. So, unless the names of citizens are recorded in the updated NRC, Aadhaar enrolment has been quietly slowed–even though Aadhaar is not meant for confirmation of citizenship.

Migration and citizenship–stumbling blocks for Assam and other northeastern states

The NRC is being updated in Assam, and only those whose names appear in the NRC (1951) and electoral rolls up to March 24 (midnight) 1971 – and those who came to Assam on or after January 1, 1966, but before March 25, 1971 and registered themselves with the government and have not been declared as illegal migrants or foreigners – are being included.

“Aadhaar operations in six north-east states – Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram – are done by the Registrar General of India under the Directorate of Census. Tripura and Sikkim are operated by UIDAI,” said Pegu.

In Tripura, 91.5% of the population now has Aadhaar numbers; in Sikkim, 90%, as on March 31, 2016.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah have promised to stop migration if the BJP comes to power in Assam.

If the Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government comes to power in the state, infiltration along the states bordering Bangladesh will be stopped and borders will be completely sealed.

As many as 141,733 doubtful/disputed voters were reported in Assam by the Election Commission in April last year, according to an April 23, 2015 Lok Sabha reply. People who cannot produce proof of nationality are marked ‘disputed’ or ‘D’ voter by the Election Commission.

Poor Aadhaar enrolment in Assam might deprive its population of economic benefits

Poor Aadhaar enrolment indicates that more than 31 million people in Assam cannot avail the benefits of JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) – a direct transfer of social-security benefits into bank accounts – introduced in February 2015 by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government.

The government aims to implement direct benefit transfers through JAM, which will improve the economic condition of India’s poor by reducing leakages and market distortions.

As many as 7,246,130 Jan Dhan accounts have been opened in Assam, of which only 4% (313,239) were linked to Aadhaar as of March 30, 2016, compared to 44% nationwide.

Of 36 states and union territories, Assam ranks 34th, followed by Mizoram (1.8%) and Meghalaya (1.6%) at the bottom, in terms of Aadhaar linked to Jan Dhan.

Similarly, mobile penetration in Assam is also low at 56%, the only state besides Bihar (54%) to have less than 60% mobile penetration, another hindrance for JAM.

As many as 296 million JAM beneficiaries were reported in 2014-15, of which 57% were linked through the Aadhaar system.

“About 120 million families will receive LPG subsidies directly into their bank accounts in 2016, most enabled by what is called the Aadhar Payments Bridge (APB), an interface between banks, gas companies, UIDAI and consumers,” Viral Shah, co-author of Rebooting India and one of Aadhaar’s architects, had told IndiaSpend earlier.

“I expect that many more schemes will adopt the Aadhaar Payments Bridge to send money, using the Aadhaar number as a financial address, into Jan Dhan accounts, in the same way,” said Shah.

Source: Press Information Bureau
Source: Press Information Bureau

More than 947 million transactions were recorded through the Aadhar payments bridge, valued at Rs 28,363 crore ($4.4 billion), as on March 31, 2016, against 71.3 million transactions, valued at Rs 4,474 crore ($700 million), on May 31, 2014.

“More than 230 million people have linked their bank accounts to their Aadhaars on the Aadhaar Payment Bridge,” an official release said on April 4, 2016.

1.5 million Aadhaar numbers can be generated every day

UIDAI is capable of generating more than 1.5 million Aadhaar numbers every day through 37,304 enrolment stations nationwide manned by 376,543 certified operators.

In 13 states and union territories, 90% of the population has Aadhaar numbers, while between 75-90% of adults were enrolled in another 13 states and UTs as on April 4, 2016, an official release said.

Delhi tops the list with 110.2% of population with Aadhaar numbers, followed by Telangana (100.4%) and Haryana (97.3%). Enrolment above 100% indicates enrolment of migrants from neighbouring states.

Source: Unique Identification Authority of India
Source: Unique Identification Authority of India

Parliament passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits, and Services) Act 2016 last month, giving the Aadhaar programme the legislative backing it lacked.

This article first appeared on Indiaspend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.