Implement Aadhaar rigorously: ASSOCHAM to govt
Having invested huge resources in the making of Aadhaar cards, the government should go ahead with implementation of the direct cash transfer (DCT) subsidy scheme as this is the only way to curb pilferage and reach the benefits to the needy and deserving, ASSOCHAM President Rajkumar Dhoot said.
Over 21.72 crore Aadhaar cards have already been issued under the aegis of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) with the maximum cards having been issued in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
As many as 4.78 crore cards have been given to the identified beneficiaries in AP and about four crore in Maharashtra, according to the official data.
"We in the industry have always been making out a strong case for better targeting the subsidy. It is nobody's case to stop the subsidy, because a large segment of the Indian population is still vulnerable and requires state support. Besides, even in the most advanced societies, certain segments like old people are given subsidy in the form of pensions," said Dhoot.
"However, we need to ensure that the money allocated in the Union Budget and state budgets reaches the target group and does not get pilfered."
He said without going into the merits or demerits of the arguments with its connection with the electoral politics, the ASSOCHAM would request the government not to get distracted.
"After all, there would be some elections or the other all the time. After the state assembly elections the national electoral pitch would start getting ready for the 2014 general elections. Under these circumstances, the country's economic agenda, irrespective of the party in power, should not be allowed to get delayed," said the ASSOCHAM President.
An analysis of the data showed that Uttar Pradesh, the most populous of the Indian states, is lagging behind in the issuance of the Aadhaar cards. So far, only 99.47 lakh cards have been issued in the state which has a population of over 15 crore people.
Likewise states like Rajasthan (94.84 lakh), Tamil Nadu (29.49 lakh) Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal are way behind the desired level of Aadhaar card issuance.
"We would urge the UIDAI to speed up work in these states so that the DCT can be rolled out within the calendar year of 2013, as announced by Finance Minister Shri P Chidambaram," said Dhoot.
Meanwhile the job of opening and integrating bank accounts of the beneficiaries with their unique ID should also be speeded up by the banks. This is important because without the bank accounts, the beneficiaries would not be getting the money allocated for them.
The ASSOCHAM said while it is true that in the initial stages, the scheme should be rolled out in a careful and phased manner, in a time-frame of five years or so, most of the Central subsidy budget of about Rs two lakh crore should be routed through DCT.
"Initially, care should be taken to ensure its success, because even a small failure would trigger a lot of bad publicity, which he scheme cannot afford. The stakes are very high in the scheme which is one of the key elements of the government's economic reforms programme," said Dhoot.
"We, in the ASSOCHAM consider wise spending of public money as important a reform as, say DTC or opening of foreign direct investment. In fact, it has more import for the country since its success would redefine the quality of human resource that India can so rightfully use."