aadhaar

In a short notification that is fairly low on detail, the recently elected Indian Government has scrapped the Cabinet Committee on Unique Identification Authority of India related issues. It is one of the four committees being discontinued. However, this does not mean that the UIDAI project is being scrapped. The rationale given by the government is that “Major decisions in this area have already been taken”, and “the remaining issues will be brought to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.”

This is part of the PM Narendra Modi’s plan to reduce the number of layers and power centers in government and speed up decision making. Do note that the system of having Groups of Ministers (GoM’s) and Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoM’s) was discontinued earlier this month.

The Aadhar project managed by the UIDAI is fairly controversial: it was created in the absence of a privacy law and without Parliamentary approval. It’s not clear where the BJP government stands on Aadhaar: its election manifesto was silent on the future of Aadhaar, and  Yashwant Sinha, who had lead the Parliamentary Standing committee which had been scathingly critical of the project, isn’t a minister in the government. Some recent Aadhaar developments:

– Aadhaar enrollment has stopped. The Economic Times reports that high penalties are being levied on enrollment agencies, and those have formed an association called “Aadhaar enrollment Agencies Association (AEAA)”.

– The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has put on hold its decision to make Aadhaar-based biometric authentication for transactions mandatory. Supreme Court had earlier asked the government not to link Aadhaar with any social benefit schemes and subsidies. In a November circular, RBI had given banks an option to start using EMV chips and pin or shift to Aadhaar, as additional factors of authentication to secure the present payment infrastructure. The circular followed a recommendation by a working group on Securing Card Present Transactions in 2011.

– M P Achuthan, a Rajya Sabha MP with the CPI, has written to the Prime Minister, asking for the Aadhaar project to be scrapped.

– The Finance Ministry has said that it wants to continue with the Direct Benefits Transfer scheme – touted as a primary reason for setting up Aadhaar – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be linked to the Aadhaar number, the Economic times reported.