Despite the decisive push given to it by the NDA government since it came to power and by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, the ambitious Aadhaar project is far from meeting its target of universal coverage by June this year, also impacting the Direct Benefits Transfer Scheme that is based on it.
While the PM had himself set the deadline of June 2015 for universal enrollment under Aadhaar at a high-level meeting chaired by him in the first week of September last year, the current enrollment figure under the project is only nearly 84 crore as of now. This means that nearly 40 crore of the population is yet to be brought under its ambit. Even the initial target set by this government of 100 crore enrollment at the “earliest” is yet to be achieved.
Government officials say there is absolutely “no possibility” of meeting the target next month and the possibility of even being able to do so by the end of this year also looks remote. Since September last year, when the target was set, less than 20 crore people have been added to the Aadhaar population.
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According to officials, while the Unique Identification Authority of India is not restricted in terms of its processing capabilities, ground level issues are a matter of concern in meeting the target. With enrollment in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar being very low, it has been difficult to increase enrollment figures significantly.
Aadhaar, which provides a unique 12-digit identity number based on biometrics to every resident of the country, was initiated by the Congress led UPA government. The NDA government had endorsed both Aadhaar and the DBT schemes during a high-level meeting in early July where Modi sought a 100-crore enrollment target under Aadhaar at the “earliest”. The PM had asked officials to link the recently launched e-passport system with Aadhaar by using the biometric data collected under the latter. Officials were also asked to implement the DBT scheme in 300 districts on a priority basis with respect to five key government schemes — MGNREGA, pensions, scholarships, Public Distribution System.
The NDA government had also made Aadhaar the basis of several fresh proposals, including introducing Aadhaar-based biometric systems in all Central government offices. Modi’s ambitious financial inclusion plan ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ also relies on Aadhaar.
However, delayed Aadhaar enrollment has meant the government has been unable to give the planned push to DBT as well. The absence of a legal backing for Aadhaar has proved to be a hindrance, with the National Identification Authority of India Bill in cold storage. Officials say the Supreme Court orders instructing the government from making Aadhaar mandatory for any services have limited the ability to maximise enrollment.