The Centre has asked Indian states to accelerate the process of seeding National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) accounts with Aadhaar, reports the Hindustan Times. It did this out of concern that over 50% NSAP accounts entitled to the benefits under the scheme had not been seeded and verified with Aadhaar.

Out of the 2.84 crore registered beneficiaries in NSAP, Aadhaar seeding has been done in 1.92 crore accounts. And out of these Aadhaar seeded accounts, Aadhaar details of 1.02 crore beneficiaries have been verified.

NSAP is a Ministry of Rural Development welfare programme and includes multiple pension, family benefit and maternity benefit schemes.

Aadhaar seeding and contention

Union rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha wrote to the states saying that “the gap between total number of beneficiaries and beneficiaries with verified Aadhaar number is huge and needs special efforts from your end.” Sinha also said that an alternative method of identifying beneficiaries needs to be used in cases of Aadhaar authentication failures.
The Supreme Court in its verdict on Aadhaar upheld the constitutionality of section 7 of the Aadhaar Act. This section allows the state to make the use of Aadhaar and biometric authentication mandatory for citizens to receive social benefits.
Reetika Khera of Rethink Aadhaar told MediaNama, “Aadhaar-linking in the pension scheme is a life-and-death matter for the elderly: one of the hunger deaths in Jharkhand occurred three months after the old lady’s pension began to be credited into another person’s bank account because of a mistake in Aadhaar-seeding. Several have had their names struck off because they were unable to link their Aadhaar numbers or there were errors in doing so.”
She further added, “It is worth recalling that if pensions are credited into bank accounts (as they are in many states), Aadhaar-linking does not achieve much. There are better ways of keeping pension lists updated. Some states (like Andhra Pradesh) have made Aadhaar-based biometric authentication compulsory, which is more of a hassle than convenience for the elderly and other social security pension scheme beneficiaries.”

Aadhaar and social welfare schemes

Last week, over 300 human rights and other activists and concerned citizens from across the country recently said that the exclusion caused by the mandatory use of Aadhaar amounts “to an emergency” and therefore, would make it an electoral issue. In it’s statement, the group said

  • The mandatory use of Aadhaar and biometrics for availing social welfare schemes was leading to large-scale exclusion, new forms of corruption, extra delays and hardship for people accessing their entitlements.
  • Thousands of cases of extreme distress being faced by people who had to use their biometrics to authenticate themselves to receive essential benefits.
  • The total number of people negatively affected by the mandatory use of Aadhaar ran into hundreds of thousands.

Also read
– A critical examination of the State of Aadhaar 2018 report by IDinsight
– Delhi Govt stops use of Aadhaar for PDS after reports of exclusion in obtaining rations