aadhaar

By Salman SH & Nikhil Pahwa

J. Satyanarayana who was the former secretary for Department of Electronics and IT has been appointed as the chairperson of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the organization that issues Aadhaar cards, reports Livemint. Satyanarayana replaces Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani who had earlier stepped down from the post of Chairman for UIDAI in 2014. Until 2008, Satyanarayana was involved in developing e-Governance initiatives for the Ministry of Company Affairs, Passport Seva, and others.

Appointment of Rajesh Jain

What’s more interesting is the fact that the government has appointed Netcore founder Rajesh Jain as a ‘part-time member’ of UIDAI, according to the report. Netcore is a company that provides SMS and Email based marketing services for businesses, i.e., deals with user contact information.

Netcore had provided marketing services used by the BJP (which is currently in power at the center), to enroll around 105 million members, according to LiveMint, as of July last year. In 2013, prior to the BJP getting elected, Jain had suggested combining Voter ID card data micro-targeting of mobile marketing campaigns, and that this be done by linking a person’s existing phone number with his/her unique Voter ID.

At that time, the BJP hadn’t taken a position on Aadhaar, although a Parliamentary Standing Committee chaired by the BJP’s Yashwant Sinha had been very critical of the Aadhaar project. Aadhaar is now become a central peg of the governenment’s JAM (Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) strategy for delivery of government services.

Jain had also set up the news site Niti Central (which shut down in February), and the IndiaVotes database.

Appointment of CEO: In July, the government also appointed Ajay Bhushan Pandey as the chief executive officer of UIDAI. 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

Amendment of Aadhaar Act

In July, 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. The 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. 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

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.