Sakala 2.0: Don’t insist on Aadhaar

From introducing the Bhoomi project to provide digital land records in early 2000 to the ambitious Sakala scheme in 2011 for delivery of multiple government services in a time-bound manner, Karnataka has been a pioneering state in people-friendly governance initiatives. But many of these schemes have either become defunct or inoperative for various reasons, including technical glitches, official apathy, lack of public awareness. Most initiatives suffer when individual officers championing them within government get transferred to another department. The government has failed to put in place robust systems that ensure that such schemes work well for citizens rather than regress from time to time. The government’s decision to launch ‘Sakala 2.0’ by overhauling the 2011 initiative to deliver time-bound government services in “a faceless, paperless and cashless ecosystem” is, therefore, most welcome.

Out of the 725 services currently on paper, the government plans to re-launch about 200 key services. An applicant can apply for a service either from home or from any of the citizen’s service centres, using a digital signature and making payment online. Each application is to be acknowledged with a Guarantee of Services to Citizen (GSC) number and certificates or documents are to be delivered to a specific DigiLocker, either created by the applicants themselves or by the departments concerned.

Whether it is procuring services under Sakala or benefits under government-funded schemes, a new element is being introduced by making linking of the Aadhaar number mandatory under the Karnataka Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, which came into force on August 1. While some 440 centrally-sponsored schemes have already been notified for mandatory Aadhaar-linked implementation, the state government plans to go about it in a gradual manner. Senior officials have insisted that various government departments have been cautioned not to exclude beneficiaries from any scheme for lack of an Aadhaar number or link. The government claims that it has also sent a circular to officials across the state to seek clearance from the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms before Aadhaar is made mandatory for various schemes and to accept alternative documents for identification in case the beneficiary does not have an Aadhaar number. The government must keep in mind that the Supreme Court is seized of the issue of the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and has repeatedly warned against benefits being denied to any citizen for lack of an Aadhaar number. The state government will be well-advised to put a halt to the process of making Aadhaar mandatory for any scheme and to accept other forms of identity from citizens until the Supreme Court delivers its judgement on Aadhaar.

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Sakala 2.0: Don’t insist on Aadhaar

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