Union Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley on Sunday described the Aadhaar scheme as a “game changer” and said the savings made by implementing it would fund three public welfare schemes of the size of Ayushman Bharat, which is the National Democratic Alliance government’s healthcare programme.
In a Facebook post titled “Benefits of the Aadhaar – where it stands today”, Jaitley said that implementing Aadhaar has enabled the government to save Rs 90,000 crore until March 2018. “Several duplicate beneficiaries, non-existent beneficiaries and fake beneficiaries have been eliminated,” wrote Jaitley.
He added: “The Digital Dividend Report prepared by the World Bank estimates that India can save Rs 77,000 crore every year by the use of Aadhaar.” However, economists have debunked the estimates published in the World Bank report.
Jaitley said that more than 122 crore Aadhaar numbers have been issued in the last 28 months, with 99% of the country’s adult population covered by the scheme. He added that the total amount of subsidy transferred through Aadhaar now equals Rs 1,69,868 crore, and the total number of subsidy transactions are almost about 425 crore.
“With the elimination of middlemen, the benefits go directly to the bank accounts,” Jaitley said. “This is a unique technology implemented only in India. The monies saved through Aadhaar is money fruitfully employed for the poor elsewhere.”
Jaitley said the Income Tax Department had already linked 21 crore PAN (permanent account number) card holders with their Aadhaar numbers.
The minister said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “decisive leadership” was responsible for the successful implementation of Aadhaar, and said that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had remained “half-hearted” because of its own contradictions and indecision towards the scheme.
“Instead of taking credit for it, Congress lawyers challenged it in court and appeared as the anti-technology, anti-Aadhaar faces,” he said. “A decisive prime minister made it possible.”
Jaitley said that the legislation introduced by the previous government did not contain adequate safeguards on privacy and did not mention the purpose for which the Unique Identification number would be used. The minister said the Supreme Court had upheld the concept of unique identity and rejected the challenge that Aadhaar violated the right to privacy in a 4:1 judgement on September 26.