Is Assam missing out on the privileges of Aadhar?
Recently all LPG consumers - being customers of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) - and also some bank customers in Guwahati received messages on their cell phones that they are required to link their gas connection with their Aadhar number and also bank accounts failing which their gas subsidies will not be credited in their bank accounts. The message created confusion among the customers as they had no idea of the action to take and, more importantly, how to get an Aadhar card. A customer talking to G Plus said that he received an SMS from IOCL stating that his subsidy transfer has been kept on hold as he has not submitted his Aadhar details with the LPG distributor. The customer called up IOCL to take the details, but according to him, IOCL was unable to provide the explanation. Similarly, a retired senior citizen sounded worried and said that every second day she receives messages from her bank to submit her Aadhar number and she is unaware of how to get one. So what is an Aadhar card? When can people start getting it in Assam? What are the benefits of Aadhar card and is it similar to NRC? Will the LPG subsidies get cancelled if Aadhar number is not submitted? Searching for answers to these questions G Plus talks to some stake holders and explores the situation.
LPG subsidy issue
Talking to an IOCL official it came to light that the particular SMS needed to be ignored by consumers as Aadhar is yet to be started in Assam. Under conditions of anonymity the official added that IOCL has taken up the matter with the Union Ministry concerned for exempting the consumers of Assam and Meghalaya in this regard. The official also said that the issue was resolved as a second message was sent to the customers to ignore the earlier message which had said that Aadhar card has to be linked with the LPG connections. But senior citizens still get the messages from banks asking for their Aadhar numbers. A city-based bank manager, talking to G Plus, said that such messages should be ignored as Aadhar card is currently not applicable in Assam. Thus being the case however, people are still eager to know what exactly is an Aadhar card and when can people get one in Assam.
Aadhar and Assam
A highly placed source in the Assam Secretariat, who is also an IAS officer, talking to G Plus, said that Aadhar card is a biometric identification of Indian residents created by taking the finger prints and iris scan of the eyes. So the identification is unique to each card holder and the card has a unique identification number. The source said that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was set up by the Government of India in January 2009 as an attached office under the aegis of the Planning Commission vide a gazette notification. The UIDAI is mandated to assign a 12-digit Unique Identification (UID) number (termed as Aadhaar) to all the residents of India. As per the notification, the UIDAI has been given the responsibility to lay down plans and policies to implement UID scheme, to own and operate the UID database and be responsible for its updation and maintenance on an ongoing basis. The implementation of UID scheme entails generation and assignment of UID to residents; defining mechanisms and processes for interlinking UID with partner databases; operation and management of all stages of UID life cycle; framing policies and procedures for the updation mechanism and defining usage and applicability of UID for delivery of various services among others. The number is linked to the resident’s basic demographic and biometric information such as photograph, fingerprints and iris scans, which are stored in a centralised database.
Who will provide Aadhar in Assam?
The source said that an Aadhar card is a central government initiative but will be provided in Assam through consultation with the state government under National Population Register (NPR). The primary objective of the NPR, as stated by the Citizenship Act, is the creation of a National Citizen Register. The National Citizen Register is intended to assist in improving security by checking for illegal migration. Additional objectives that have been articulated include providing services to the residents under government schemes and programmes, checking for identity frauds and improving planning. So there are two types of states in India - UIDAI states and RGI (Register General of India) states. In UIDAI states, Aadhar can be provided by private vendors assigned by UIDAI but in RGI states, Aadhar has to be provided by the government through NPR. The source said that Assam is an RGI state and the Aadhar card process will start after the NRC is completed because, as Aadhar is a unique identification, non-completion of the NRC would allow even the voters who are not genuine citizens in Assam to avail an Aadhar card. So basically Assam will see Aadhar after the NRC is published. NPR enrolment is being carried out through house to house canvassing. The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India has entrusted the Department of Information Technology (DIT) with the responsibility of collecting and digitizing demographic data in 17 states and 2 union territories of India. Collected information will then be printed and displayed in the local area where it will be scrutinized by local officers and vetted by local bodies called “Gram Sabha/Ward Committees.” This process of social audit is meant to bring in transparency, equity and ensure accuracy. According to sources in the census office in Assam, the Aadhar process was started in 2014 in three districts (Golaghat, Sonitpur and Nagaon), but because of the NRC being in progress the process is currently stalled and will be started again after the NRC process is completed. The source clarified that NRC is the citizenship record, whereas Aadhar number is a unique identification number and both are different.
Interestingly the Indian government’s rules and ideas are always confusing as an NRI from America who visited Guwahati recently said that in America there is only one identification number which is known as the social security number and which is also a proof of citizenship because if you are not a citizen there, you cannot get a social security card. The NRI said it looks like India is also following the same idea by providing Aadhar Card to the residents but again it is not a proof of citizenship. Aadhar will help in linking all the bank accounts and other facilities like LPG connections etc., but it will not be accepted as a proof of citizenship. So basically the harassment continues with application for NRC first and then for Aadhar. Even for NRC people had to submit many documents and prove their ancestral relations, etc. The Indian government should think of easing the system instead of complicating it. But one thing the people of Assam should feel carefree about is that they need bother about Aadhar till the NRC process is over.
Citizens receive messages from banks to submit their Aadhar number and keep their bank accounts updated
People are confused about how to procure an Aadhar card
Aadhar started in three districts in 2014 on a pilot basis
Dispur sources clarify that Aadhar work will start only after NRC completion
IOCL officials say Aadhar messages are to be ignored
Aadhar in Assam to be done under NPR
NPR is intended to assist in improving security by checking for illegal migration
Aadhar to link individual identification with other services like bank accounts, LPG connections, etc.
Aadhar is to India as the Social Security Number is to USA but Aadhar is just a proof of identification proof and not a proof of citizenship