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Lok Sabha passes Aadhaar bill

Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister

Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister

Thousands of crore rupees will be saved by routing government subsidy through the Aadhaar system, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Friday, as the Lok Sabha passed a Bill to give statutory backing to the unique identity number scheme.

The Bill “will empower the states to distribute resources of the State to deserving people and save the resources that undeserving people get,” the Minister said while replying to short debate on the Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016′.

“The effect is going to be on the Centre and state governments which will save thousands of crore,” Jaitley said just before the measure was adopted by a voice vote.

Moving the bill for consideration and passage earlier, Jaitley said targeted subsidy through Aadhar cards of LPG consumers had resulted in savings of over Rs 15000 crore at the Centre. Four states which had started PDS delivery by a similar exercise on a pilot basis, had saved more than Rs 2300 crore.

Last week, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had said the passage of the Bill would save Rs 20,000 crore by avoiding subsidies taken by the undeserving. The Bill provides for statutory backing to Aadhaar scheme for transferring government subsidies and benefits.

It provides for “good governance, efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, to individuals residing in India through assigning of unique identity numbers to such individuals”, a summary of the bill said.

Giving statutory backing to Aadhaar will enable the use of the identification number for better targeting of subsidies. Jaitley said discussion on the institution of Aadhar has been going on for over seven years after the then UPA government approved a bill in September, 2010 and introduced it in Parliament that December.

“Entire discussion in seven years has now culminated,” he said, noting that it was discussed in standing committee and extensive public suggestions were also received, as he stressed that the government had taken note of all this.

Citing differences between the earlier Bill tabled by UPA and the latest one, the Finance Minister said the earlier measure provided for establishment of an Authority and gave idea of unique identity but failed to define its purpose.

“Learning from that experience, we have improved upon the idea and the focus of the Bill is shifted,” he said. The National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 was introduced by the previous UPA government to provide statutory backing to the UIDAI.

Rejecting Opposition demand for referring the Aadhar Bill to a standing committee, Jaitley justified the measure as a money bill, saying any measure which leads to money going into the Consolidated Fund of India and coming out of it, qualifies for this.

There are certain procedures which are followed for a money Bill, he said. Allaying fears that privacy would be breached, he said core bio-metric data cannot be shared with anyone. However, some data can be shared with consent of the individual.

With regard to opposition suggestion regarding definition of national security, he said, it is for the courts to define what falls under national security. The Finance Minister further said that till a few months ago, he himself was a beneficiary of LPG subsidy which he should not be entitled to.

So the Bill will help weed out undeserving beneficiary from government subsidy scheme. “The purpose of the Bill is not for collateral purpose but to ensure that benefit of public revenue reach the targeted beneficiary,” he added. He said 97 per cent of adults have Aadhar cards while 67 per cent of minors have it as well. Five to seven lakh people are being added every day, he said.

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