With clouds of uncertainty hovering over the Aadhar scheme, the Centre is making a desperate effort to provide it oxygen of linking it to entitlements.
As of now, only 3.5 crore unique identification cards have been issued as against an enrolment of 10 crore people across the country. Doubts about Aadhar increased when the Reserve Bank of India issued a directive that bank accounts could not be opened on the basis of UID cards. But later clarified that Aadhar cards can be accepted as a proof of identity and residence.
What is bothering the Union government is that Aadhar will be judged not by the coverage in terms of numbers but by the impact it creates as a card-bearing benefit. But possession of the Aadhar card is not mandatory.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has proposed to link Aadhar with payment of wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the five States where the ministry has been appointed registrar for issuance of UID cards.
Under an MoU signed between UIDAI and states, the ministry has appointed registrar for collection of data in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tripura and West Bengal. Other Central government departments such as Food and Civil Supplies and Information and Technology have been assigned the role in other States.
The MGNREGS wages will be paid in these States through Aadhar-linked bank accounts.
The rural development minister favours a timeline of 12 months to issue UID cards to all job cardholders. But it still seems a tough task, even if linking Aadhar to MGNREGS wage payment is limited to these five States. For, as against the 3.09 crore job cards issued in these States, only 39 lakh BPL households have been provided with bank accounts.
West Bengal accounts for 22.16 lakh, way behind the 1.08 crore job cards issued there. In Assam too, only about 20 per cent (7.42 lakh) of the job card holders (38.4) have secured bank accounts. Things are even worse in Bihar where only 1.73 lakh MGNREGS workers have bank accounts, though the number of job card holders is 1.16 crore, and in Jharkhand, where only 2.6 lakh out of 39.5 lakh job card holders have bank accounts.
Tripura is the only State which has done well, ensuring that four lakh MGNREGS workers out of 5.9 lakh job card holders have bank accounts.