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Indian Government to make Aadhaar people-friendly

India’s Union Cabinet has approved ‘The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019’ to replace the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019. The amendments proposed are the same as those contained in the Ordinance promulgated by the President on 2 March this year.

Aadhaar cards are twelve-digit unique identification numbers linked to a citizen’s basic demographic and biometric information.

According to a press release, the decision is expected to go a long way in meeting the people-friendly and citizen-centric nature of Aadhaar. The Bill will be introduced in an ensuing session of Parliament.

The impact

The decision will enable the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to have a more robust mechanism to serve public interests and prevent the misuse of Aadhar cards.

Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of an Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing their identity unless it is provided by a law made by Parliament.

For the convenience of the general public when opening of bank accounts, the proposed amendments will allow the use of an Aadhaar number for voluntary authentication as an acceptable KYC (Know-Your-Customer) document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

The details

The features of the amendments are:

  • It provides for the voluntary use of an Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of the Aadhaar number holder;
  • It provides for the use of the twelve-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual;
  • It provides the option for children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number when they turn eighteen years old;
  • It permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority, and the authentication is permitted under any law made by Parliament or is prescribed to be in the interest of the state by the central government;
  • It allows the use of an Aadhaar number for authentication on a voluntary basis as an acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002;
  • It proposes the deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to the use of Aadhaar by private entities;
  • It prevents the denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication;
  • It provides for the establishment of the Unique Identification Authority of India Fund;
  • It provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act, and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

OpenGov reported earlier that India has the potential to create over US $1 trillion of economic value from the digital economy by 2025, up from around US $200 billion currently.

About 50% of the potential economic value could come from new digital ecosystems in diverse sectors, including, among others, financial services, agriculture, healthcare, logistics, jobs, and e-governance.

The rate of technology adoption increased between 2013 and 2018, bolstered by government initiatives and mobile penetration. During this time, the country clocked 1.22 billion Aadhaar registrations, 870 million Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, and 98 million daily e-government transactions. Building on this foundation, India can further scale-up its digital economy.

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