The Lok Sabha on Friday passed the Aadhaar Bill that aims to ensure targeted services to intended beneficiaries by assigning them unique identity numbers. These numbers will be given to each person who has stayed in India for 182 days in the year preceding the date of application.
The Lower House passed The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, with a voice vote after a brief debate. While responding to concerns expressed by Rajiv Satav of the Congress, Tathagat Satpathy of the BJD, Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM, Kaushalendra Kumar of the JD(U) and others, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured the House that details provided for the card would not be allowed to be misused in any manner.
The government, having seen the fate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, chose to package the legislation as a money bill to ensure that it was not blocked by the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA is short of a majority. In his reply to the debate, Jaitley left it to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to take the final call on whether or not it could be classified as a money bill. Jaitley, citing Section 110 of the Constitution, said any bill which facilitated the payment of moneys into or withdrawals of money from the Contingency Fund of India was a money bill. The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha, which can deliberate on it and suggest amendments.
While wrapping up the debate, Jaitley said that “except for some questions with regard to privacy and disclosure of information which have been raised, most speakers have actually supported” the bill. “The effect (of the bill) is going to be that both the central and state governments are going to save thousands of crores of rupees after having serviced and served the poor people and these thousands of crores of rupees that they will save from undeserving people are further resources which can go to the advantage of serving those people”.
Earlier in the day, Jaitley refused to accept the Opposition demand that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee. As Jaitley proposed that the House take up the bill for consideration, Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD expressed the fear that it could lead to invasion of privacy. Mahtab received support from Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge and AIADMK leader P Venugopal. Kharge said they were not against the bill as such, but they felt that it was flawed.
Jaitley pointed out that the bill had been going through some consideration or the other for seven years. “Enough is enough,” he said, adding that the Congress opposition to the bill was “not principled”. He reminded the Congress that the UPA government had approved a bill in September 2010 and introduced it in Parliament in December. Regarding Kharge’s criticism over the money-bill issue, he said the bill was “distinctly different” from the one brought by the UPA. “The earlier we implement it, the better.”
BJD chief whip Tathagat Satpathy said there was apprehension that the bill could be used for “mass surveillance” and “ethnic cleansing”. When a BJP member countered him, saying there are no different races in the country, Satpathy said there are at least four groups in the country and Indians can be divided on these lines.
On the privacy issue, Jaitley said the bill had provisions for taking care of it. He said there would be no sharing of Aadhaar data without the consent of residents and no biometric data would be shared even with their consent. “The purpose of the bill is not for collateral purpose but to ensure that benefit of public revenue reaches the targeted beneficiary,” he added.
The minister said that 97 per cent adults had Aadhaar cards while 67 per cent minors had it. Five to 7 lakh people were being added every day.