Aadhaar and Welfare

Does Aadhaar reduce corruption?

It is not clear to what extent as government does not publish disaggregated data on this even in case of ration system. In several instances, the new system has created more confusion and corruption. Since December 2015, the Government of Rajasthan has tried hard to enforce the system. The use of “point of sale” machines is compulsory and every ration shop has one. Yet, according to official data compiled by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, only 61 per cent of Rajasthan’s foodgrain allocation found its way through the point of sale system in July 2016, with a similar figure (63 per cent) for August.
The rest is either siphoned off or delivered using the old “register” system — which of the two is hard to say since utter confusion prevails about the permissibility of using registers as a fallback option.

In Jharkhand, after the Aadhaar-based point of sale system was made compulsory, in July 2016, ration cardholders in Ranchi district received less than half of their foodgrain entitlements through that system, according to the state website. The situation was much the same in August.

A “dual system”, where food grains go partly through the point of sale system and partly through the fallback register system, is the worst. Because only dealers know whether and when the manual register system is permissible, and they have no incentive to share that information with the cardholders. 

Further, continuing with the ration example, the Aadhaar system fails to check “quantity fraud”: ration dealers often give people less than what they are entitled to, and pocket the rest. Point of sale machines are ineffective in preventing this. 

Yet, Aadhaar is proceeding like a juggernaut, without paying serious attention to the collateral damage to welfare systems. Instead, the Central government peddles bogus figures of Aadhaar-enabled financial savings to justify further imposition of Aadhaar technology.