Aadhaar Card Issues

[op-ed snap] A welfare test for Aadhaar

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NFSA, MGNREGA

Mains level: Inefficiencies in PDS as well as Aadhar ecosystem and how to remove them


  1. The Aadhaar ecosystem definitely needs to pass a stringent welfare test much more crucially than the privacy test

Aadhar leading to exclusions in PDS system

  1. There have been reports of widespread exclusion and disruption that Aadhaar may be causing in welfare schemes
  2. It is imperative to ensure that nobody who needs welfare is ever denied
  3. The rights derived from the NFSA and MGNREGA are unconditional

What is required now?

  1. Immediately requirement is a thorough analysis of the denials in PDS
  2. What is the exclusion rate due to targeting errors independent of Aadhaar and how many are excluded only due to Aadhaar?
  3. What is the biometric failure rate across the population, sorted according to age, gender, occupation, and region?
  4. Are the failures inherent to the technology or are they avoidable process errors?

Effective design of digital identity in PDS

Elements of such a design must be based on

  1. an offline identity verification system with opportunistic uploading of cached records
  2. an error-free linking process
  3. deployment of tamper-proof digital weighing machines
  4. end-to-end recording at the supply chain and at the ration shops
  5. effective online receipt systems and online audits
  6. user education and a quick and effective grievance redress system

How would this work?

  1. The offline identity verification may simply be based on digital reading of an encrypted and digitally signed photograph of the beneficiary encoded on the ration card
  2. This will be followed by physical comparison and storing for records along with a time-stamped photograph acquired on the spot with a tamper-proof device
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