As the government expands the scope of the direct benefits transfer scheme to include all welfare payments, it is planning to first link the bank account details of the beneficiaries. The sourcing and the seeding of the databases with Aadhaar will be done at a later stage. This method is expected to expedite the migration of all the subsidy schemes on the DBT platform since the government has notified that all beneficiaries should necessarily be transferred their welfare payments into their bank accounts. As per the mandate, no beneficiary would get any payment in cash or by cheque after April 30.
The union government has recently decided to expand the scope of DBT massively to include each and every welfare payment made by the Centre government or a Public Sector Unit (PSU).
In the first phase, DBT included only 27 schemes which majorly consisted of scholarships and LPG subsidy. While payments under various pension schemes as well as under the job guarantee scheme MGNREGA will form a major chunk of the transactional volumes of the expanded project, the new mandate will also mean that payments under the smallest of state government and central government welfare schemes will have to be done necessarily through the DBT platform.
According to government officials familiar with the discussions, the focus currently is on digitizing the databases, which are currently maintained on paper registers. "Almost 10-15% of the fakes and duplicates will be removed from the system the moment the databases are fed into the computer," said a government official. Once the digitisation is complete, the bank accounts will be linked so that money can be transferred directly into the accounts at the earliest and seeding with Aadhaar will be done later on, added the official.
Though this strategy may help in fast tracking the project, another set of experts argue that defocusing from Aadhaar will pose new concerns. It could introduce new kinds of fakes and duplicates in the system as without Aadhaar it will be difficult to ascertain uniqueness of an individual. "Someone with duplicate entries in the system could feed multiple bank accounts," said another government official.
Another roadblock ahead of complete seeding of Aadhaar with the databases is the Supreme Court order which has advised the government against making Aadhaar mandatory for availing of government services. In this backdrop, a third government official said that the authorities are not insisting on Aadhaar and are linking it only at places where residents are voluntarily sharing their Aadhaar numbers.
Another concern of authorities is that they claim getting the Unique Identity number for each beneficiary within a month's time would be difficult since the database created by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) can only authenticate the identity of a person by saying yes or no but can't share any other details. "In states where the National Population Register has been tasked with collecting the biometrics, they have created a district/village wise register of residents along with their Aadhaar numbers. In such areas it is very easy to link both the bank account as well as the Aadhaar," said the first official quoted above.
So far UIDAI has issued Aadhaar to 807 million people in the country.