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Ajay Bhushan Pandey new head of UIDAI

uidai-ceoThe government on Thursday appointed Ajay Bhushan Pandey as the chief executive officer of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the organization that issues Aadhaar cards, reports Livemint. Prior to this, Pandey held the post of Director General at UIDAI since September 2015, and Deputy Director General of the same organization for 5 years between September 2011 to August 2015, as indicated by his Linkedin profile. Note that, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani had earlier stepped down from the post of Chairman for UIDAI in 2014, after joining it in 2007.

Before joining UIDAI, Pandey worked with Government of Maharashtra for almost 10 years holding various roles including Secretary for Information Technology, and MD for Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company.

The government while notifying the Aadhaar Act last week said that the new chairperson or CEO for UIDAI would be appointed after reviewing recommendations from a committee headed by the cabinet secretary, consisting of secretaries from the department of personnel and training, department of finance and department of IT and technology and two experts from the communications and IT minister.

Last week, the Union government had amended the Aadhaar Act 2016 , which could make it mandatory for people to acquire an Aadhaar card to avail financial subsidies and benefits. Finance minister Arun Jaitley had earlier stated the government will develop Aadhaar as a social security platform to target intended beneficiaries. Note that The Aadhaar Act, which was passed in Parliament in March as a money bill, bypassed voting in the Rajya Sabha. A money bill exclusively contains provisions for imposition and abolition of taxes, for appropriation of moneys out of a consolidated fund.

Supreme Court ruling

However the government’s steps towards making Aadhaar mandatory for subsidies/benefits seems to be in defiance of an August 2015 SC ruling that made Aadhaar optional except for public distribution system and LPG connections. Various State governments, including Gujarat and Jharkhand along with central bodies such as RBI, SEBI, TRAI and the Pension Regulatory Authority returned to the court saying the August order had become a roadblock for people with Aadhaar to enrol in other social benefit schemes.

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Earlier in 2014, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar cannot be mandatory for any government service.

Aadhaar is already being linked for government schemes

The UIDAI’s website shows that there are 103,10,55,254 Aadhaar cards issued till date. Recently, the Maharashtra home department made it mandatory to produce Aadhaar for filing a police complaint, Karnataka’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister UT Khader said that for a month, ration supplies will not be stopped for those without an Aadhaar card or Aadhaar numbers linked to ration cards.

In Assam, lakhs of LPG consumers received messages saying that their LPG subsidy had been put on hold because they hadn’t submitted their Aadhaar number. HuffingtonPost reports that Jaspal S Sandhu, the Secretary of the UGC sent a letter to Vice Chancellors of all universities, making it mandatory for the use of Aadhaar for “disbursement of all government subsidies, scholarships and fellowships.”  More on that here and here.

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