A big jolt

The Supreme Court’s reiteration of its earlier directives on the use of Aadhaar cards, this time more decisively, has again cast doubts about the utility of the scheme.

The issue that came up before the court, which necessitated its latest order, also exposed the possible misuse of the Aadhaar number for purposes for which it was not intended.

The use of biometric information from the UIDAI data base for criminal investigation was not part of the original Aadhaar plan.

But the CBI’s attempts to get such information for investigation of a rape case in Goa show that the card could be used for unintended purposes too.

Two lower courts had in fact agreed to the CBI’s request. The Supreme Court has stayed the lower court order which had serious implications for the right to privacy of the individual.

It has rightly asserted that the biometric data underlying Aadhaar numbers cannot be shared with any agency without the consent of the holder of the number.

The issue however is not one of misuse of the aadhaar card for other purposes but one of its use for its intended purposes too.

With its stern directive not to make the possession of cards mandatory for availing benefits under social security schemes the court has questioned even the need for the scheme.

Why should anyone get a card if it is not needed? The government’s position on this has been ambiguous.

The uses of Aadhaar cards have not been legally defined as the scheme is not supported by legislation.

Without legally laid down rules and guidelines on its use and prevention of misuse the scheme will turn out to be one that wasted huge resources without corresponding benefits.

It may be too late to drop the scheme, after 60 crore people have been given the Aadhaar numbers.

The next government will have to review the scheme, resolve the issues that have come up through court rulings and implementation problems, make its scope and uses clear and give it the necessary statutory backing.

A sting operation has revealed that ineligible people can secure Aadhaar cards by paying bribes to enrolling officials.

If this is correct, it undermines the credibility of the project. It may mean that there may be many cards that need to be weeded out.

Direct cash transfer to beneficiaries of government schemes and services is a good idea but the Aadhaar plan has to be reworked and strengthened to achieve that aim.

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