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How Aadhaar is killing the ghosts that haunt welfare schemes

Author:
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: January 5, 2018
URL:    https://m.economictimes.com/news/economy/policy/how-aadhaar-is-killing-the-ghosts-that-haunt-welfare-schemes/amp_articleshow/62378973.cms?__twitter_impression=true

The mandatory Aadhaar linkage with various government services has come to be scary news, not just for concerns over privacy and data breach but also for the sudden transparency it brings.

 Often, social media is awash with fake news of government making it mandatory to link Aadhaar with land records. It's a favourite viral message on social media due to the scare it can create among a large number of people. An Aadhaar linkage with immovable properties can sure bring a lot of transparency to a sector known for the first and last refuge of the corrupt.

 Aadhaar has already been instrumental in identifying a large number of bogus users—the ghosts—of various government schemes.

 Consider this: In 2017, Union Ministry of Human Resource Development told colleges and universities across India that they would have to submit Aadhaar numbers of all the teachers.

 Guess what? About a tenth of the teachers were found to be fake, the ghosts who must have been drawing salaries they were not entitled to. Around 130,000 teachers were found to be fake out of about 1.4 million teachers in all colleges and universities, according to a Mint report.

 In November, Railways and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said Aadhaar had exposed five crore "ghost accounts". He said that after the government made Aadhaar mandatory, it had found 3.5 crore fake LPG connections and 1.6 crore fake ration cards.

 A few days ago, UT Khadar, food supplies minister of Karnataka—a state ruled by opposition Congress party—revealed that due to Aadhaar linkage, around 8.5 lakh ration cards were found to be bogus and were cancelled. Each fair-price shop had 60-70 of such ghost beneficiaries, he said.

 In the years 2015-16 and 2016-17, many government schools in Jharkhand, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh had shown non-existent students on their rolls and claimed money from the mid-day meal scheme for them. According to a report in March last year, nearly 4.4 lakh ghost students were eliminated from schools.

 Such a huge number of fake students drawing benefit of government welfare were found only in three states. A far larger number of such ghost students could be present in other states.

 Ghosts, or fake beneficiaries, are one of the biggest reasons why government welfare schemes leak like a sieve. Identification and exorcism of these ghosts can make India's welfare system robust. Perhaps that's why the government defends Aadhaar so fiercely against several legal challenges.

  According to a World Bank report of 2016, Aadhaar could save $11 billion annually in various welfare schemes. The government had told the Supreme Court in an affidavit last year that the total recorded savings through Direct Benefit Transfer scheme alone had been ₹49,560 crore in 2014-15 and 2015-16, according to a report. The government said that Aadhaar helped it save 14,000 crore up to December 2016 in the targeted delivery of food grains under public distribution system as it deleted 2.33 crore fake ration cards.
 
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