Oil firms want Aadhaar linked to bank account

A prerecorded message by state-owned oil companies about linking people’s Aadhaar number to their bank account immediately, in order to avail cooking gas subsidy, may make people run from pillar-to-post in the wake of confusion over the status of this unique identification card but the government seems to have no answer.

An automated message plays when a consumer picks up the phone and books his LPG refill. It says that in certain districts/circles, the cooking gas subsidy will be deposited directly in the bank accounts of beneficiaries and it is necessary to link the Aadhaar number to the bank account in order to avail of the subsidy.  

But the Supreme Court is yet to give its ruling on whether the Aadhaar card can be made mandatory for availing government services, including the cooking gas subsidy. The case is expected to come up in the apex court again this month.

When asked why a public sector oil marketing company is constantly running the message when the status of Aadhaar is yet to be made clear, a government official told Deccan Herald, “Unless the Supreme Court clearly says that you cannot link Aadhaar with subsidies, we assume that Aaadhar is a necessity.”

“We have also filed our counter affidavit in the court where we have mentioned that in 20 districts, where the grace period to link Aadhaar to bank account is over, the unique identification number has been made mandatory for availing LPG subsidy,” the official said.

Direct cash transfer for LPG began on June 1 in 19 districts. The government gave a three-month grace period to enable consumers to get the Aadhaar card and link it with their bank accounts. After the expiry of this period, cash subsidy in these districts is only being provided to those who have Aadhaar cards.

Although the Petroleum Ministry is mulling certain other alternatives to Aadhaar in case the Supreme Court rules that the unique identification card cannot be made mandatory for availing government services, it is still not clear what these alternatives could be. The official said it could be ration card, voter ID card or driving licence but the authenticity of these alternative documents is not foolproof.

Aadhaar provides a resident a 12-digit unique number after recording bio-metric information like fingerprints and iris and its authenticity is considered to be close to perfect. The government has planned to use this unique identification card for its cash transfer scheme for various subsidies.

The Aadhaar platform, which also seeks to eliminate diversions  and plug leakages is already being used for transfer of LPG subsidy in cash to bank accounts of beneficiaries in 97 districts of the country. The government had planned to extend it to almost 265 districts by January 1, 2014.

The government has planned to link the Aadhaar card number to all social sector schemes such as MNREGA job card, scholarships, pension ID and others. But currently only LPG is largely linked to Aadhaar.

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