Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said 97 per cent adult Indians now have an Aadhaar card and that the bill introduced by him in the Lok Sabha will go a long way in ensuring government subsidies and services directly reach the beneficiaries in entirety.
Initiating a debate on the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, that was introduced by him in the lower house on March 3, 2016, Jaitley assured members that details provided for the card will not be misused in any manner.
The bill intends to give legal teeth to the government in providing services to those residing in India by assigning them unique identity numbers, called Aadhaar. It will be given to every person who has stayed in India for 182 days in the one year preceding the date of application.
Jaitley also defended the move to turn it into a money bill, as the Opposition Congress objected. The party’s floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the previous one piloted by his party-led regime in 2010 did not term it as one.
Kharge alleged the government intented to call it a money bill, motivated by an apprehension that the draft legislation may face hurdles in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling coalition does not enjoy a majority.
But Jaitley said the new bill is "unlike" the previous one moved by the Manmohan Singh government in 2010. The finance minister said its core focus was on the money the government will spend for beneficiaries and not a mere identification document.
"This bill deals with one primary focus and that is: Whoever gets benefit from the Consolidated Fund of India, either state government or the Centre and other institutions — the person is entitled to have an Aadhaar card," the finance minister said.
Regarding the coverage, he said 67 per cent children are also enrolled and that 5-7 lakh people are being added to the system each day.
Among the other features of the bill, it calls for the government to ask a person to apply for one if he does not have an Aadhaar number, while providing an alternative means of identification. The card can be used as proof of identity, for not as a proof of citizenship or domicile.
Jaitley said the Aadhaar number will not be misused since the overseeing authority can respond to an authentication query only with a positive, negative or other appropriate response. He said it is not permitted to share the biometric attributes. These include finger prints and iris scans.
The details can be shared only under two circumstances: National security and court order.
The bill also calls for an imprisonment of up to three years and the minimum fine of Rs.10 lakh on a person for extending unauthorised access to the centralised data-base — or for revealing any information stored in it.