New Delhi: Pushing for the universal use of Aadhaar in the delivery of welfare schemes in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Saturday asked secretaries of central government departments to use it more, as it is legally permissible, ThePrint has learnt.
PM Modi also asked the secretaries to look into creating a task force for better data governance, in the meeting that lasted several hours Saturday.
Launched in 2009, Aadhaar was touted as a solution for better delivery of social welfare schemes and subsidy programmes. But it was first challenged in the Supreme Court in 2012. In 2013, the SC issued an interim order that said nobody shall be denied any benefit for want of Aadhaar. However, in 2015 the court partially modified its order to allow the Centre to use Aadhaar for the public distribution system (PDS scheme), particularly for the distribution of foodgrains and cooking fuel such as kerosene,
A 2018 SC judgment also upheld Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, which made Aadhaar mandatory for availing of state subsidies, benefits and services, while striking down a few other provisions. For example, it stated that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory for children under the Sarva Shiksha Scheme, as elementary education is not a state benefit but an entitlement.
“The PM emphasised on the fact that Unique Identification Numbers (UID) should be used more efficiently and for more schemes, for better delivery of services. The bureaucrats end up reading the 2013 order of the Supreme Court, and as a result, the full potential of Aadhaar is yet not felt,” said a senior official.
He added: “The PM cited the example of GIS mapping and pointed out how if we can actually link all our schemes and programmes then we can map all the schemes and do better planning,” added the official.
The importance of data governance was also stressed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba in a letter he wrote to the departmental secretaries Monday, following the meeting chaired by the PM.
‘Data can fuel higher GDP growth’
Another official said PM Modi highlighted how data should become the fuel for a much higher GDP growth. “He emphasised how good data can be leveraged for better performance of various sectors. He pointed out how data is being collected by various departments and by sharing it, we can better our schemes,” said the second official.
According to the officials, Modi also asked the secretaries to put the existing human resources to better use and train them. “He also pointed out that capacity building and training people better is an important component of good governance,” said the first official quoted above.
He added that in the meeting, a number of secretaries also shared their ideas on policy-related issues and how they would facilitate good governance. “The ideas and proposals shared by the secretaries will be worked upon and those that are feasible will be implemented,” he said.
The second official added that in his speech to the secretaries, Modi emphasised the need for faster and efficient delivery of government programmes, so that maximum people can get the benefit of the schemes.
Cabinet Secretary Gauba, in his letter, pointed out that the PM has emphasised that effort needs to be made to “fully leverage the power of technology”.
“All schemes and programmes of the government will have an inbuilt digital component,” said the second official, citing the contents of the letter.
The letter (ThePrint has seen a copy of it) stated: “In today’s digital age, data is a very valuable resource. A single data source can be useful for multiple benefits. Data governance is a key to our efforts to transform the lives of our countrymen. We must embrace the concept of ‘data as wealth’ and utilise this potential of data.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)