A note by Right to Food Campaign (RtF) on how aadhaar undermines the right to life of millions:
On 21 March, 2018, the government began its defence of Aadhaar in the Supreme Court. The Right to Food Campaign is dismayed that the government once again presented already debunked claims of the benefits of Aadhaar in welfare in the Supreme Court.
Aadhaar does not help identify welfare beneficiaries
The Attorney General claims that Aadhaar helps to identify the beneficiaries of various schemes. These schemes have specific eligibility criteria based on determinants such as deprivation, age, caste, gender, marital status etc. The Unique Identification (UID) project only assigns a number to a person and is incapable of identifying people or households of certain characteristics.
Aadhaar has not empowered people
Aadhaar has done the exact opposite of empowerment – it has denied people their legal entitlements and caused widespread hardships. In 2017, according to official data, 33 lakh families in Rajasthan were unable to access their ration entitlement each month due to the linkage of the Public Distribution System (PDS) with Aadhaar. Similarly, in Jharkhand, 25 lakh families were deprived of their grain entitlement on a monthly basis. Almost a quarter of Delhi’s ration cardholders were unable to purchase their ration in January 2018 due to Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) failures. From July 2017 to January 2018, at least ten people across three states died of hunger due to disruptions caused by Aadhaar.
Aadhaar has not reduced corruption
Integration of welfare with Aadhaar has in fact engendered many new forms of corruption. Middlemen charge a commission to help people enrol in Aadhaar, update their personal details in the UID database, link their Aadhaar number with various programmes etc.
Aadhaar can at best help reduce “identify fraud” i.e. impersonation as someone else to claim a benefit. However, the bulk of leakages in welfare programmes occur in the form of “quantity fraud” i.e. when an eligible beneficiary does not receive the full quantity and/or quality of her entitlement. The inability of Aadhaar linkage or ABBA to curb this type of corruption was established in the survey of 900 households of Jharkhand which found no difference in ratio of PDS foodgrains purchased between villages that used ABBA and those that did not. The findings of Karthik Muralidharan, Sandip Sukhtankar and Paul Niehaus (University of California, San Diego and University of Virginia) are similar.
Aadhaar has not helped save Rs 57,000 crores annually
This claim has been debunked many times. On examining the breakdown of this figure, it is found that the government does not explain the exact cause of the savings or the method of calculating the levels of savings. The original source of the figure of Rs 57,000 crores ($11 billion) of savings is the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016. This is actually an estimate of the Government of India’s total yearly expenditure on “major cash transfers”. When this was pointed out to the Bank, it exaggerated the central government expenditure on welfare to $70-100 billion and extrapolated alleged rates of savings achieved due to the integration of Aadhaar in two programmes to arrive at potential savings figure in the range of $8-14 billion!
The mandatory integration of welfare with Aadhaar is an attack on people’s right to life – interpreted to mean not just mere survival, but life with dignity. The Right to Food Campaign urges the Supreme Court of India to end the compulsory requirement of Aadhaar for accessing social and economic rights.