A petitioner who took the Centre to the Supreme Court over its move to make Aadhaar cards “mandatory” to avail certain welfare schemes has disputed the government’s figures on gains from Direct Benefit Scheme (DBT) due to introduction of the unique identity.
In a rejoinder filed in court on Friday, the petitioner cited that the government’s affidavit in the case and said it had listed savings from DBT for 2014-15 and 2015-16 at Rs 49,560 crore. This, Sen contended, “is incorrect and a gross exaggeration”, and sought to explain her conclusions.
The court is due to hear the matter on June 27.
According to the government, financial benefits from DBT arose from four basic schemes: Public Distribution System (PDS), Pratyaksha Hastantrit Labh (PAHAL), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), and the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP). A “fifth residuary category” was noted in the affidavit as “others”, Sen pointed out. She alleged that figures in each case were “disputed, its methodology of computation has not been revealed, and there exist material doubts as to the financial benefits which are alleged to have accrued”.
The “savings” were actually “gross savings”, as available data indicate that no costs were factored into their tabulation, Sen contended.
Referring to the savings from PAHAL alone, which was computed at Rs 26,408 crore for the period 2014-17, the rejoinder said that a CAG audit for April-December 2015 had concluded that “most savings (92%) is because of the fall in LPG price in international market, and only 8% can be attributed to various initiatives (UID being just one among them)”.
“The CAG analysis notes that the respondent (government) has inaccurately classified 3.34 crore inactive connections as active connections illegally drawing subsidised LPG prior to the launch of PAHAL. This contradicts government figures from before….”
On gains from DBT, Sen said the government had claimed that deletion of 2.33 crore ration cards after seeding with Aadhaar had saved it Rs 14,000 crore. But previous statements by government had gone to show that only a fraction of these deletions can be attributed to Aadhaar, she said.
Sen accused the government of trying to “conflate the number of persons enrolled to argue the impossibility of exclusion”. The Centre, she argued, had claimed that more than 95.1 percent of Indians possess Aadhaar, and that the enrollment figure stood at 115.15 crore. “Such figures amount to puffery (exaggerated)”, she said, as Aadhaar enrollment has been open to residents and not just citizens, and enrollment has been done using coercive measures.