NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a Bill, which will help route all government subsidies through the Aadhaar system and help give a statutory backing to the unique identity number scheme. It was passed as a Money Bill after government overruled opposition objections. The current Bill provides for statutory backing to the Aadhaar scheme for transferring government subsidies and benefits.
Money Bills are those with provisions regarding taxation, borrowing of money by the government and expenditures or contributions to the Consolidated Fund of India. The Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to a Money Bill once it is passed by the Lok Sabha.
Amid demands from Opposition parties that the bill be referred to the standing committee, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it was different from its earlier version, which was moved by the UPA, as it had said that every resident should have a unique identity.
“This had raised debates on the right to privacy of an individual,” he said. The objectives of this bill had stated that the central government plans to issue a unique identification number (called Aadhaar) to every resident of India and the number shall be linked to a resident’s demographic and biometric information.
Citing differences between the earlier Bill tabled by UPA and the latest one, Jaitley said the earlier measure provided for establishment of an authority and gave the idea of unique identity but failed to define its purpose.
Money Bills are those that contain provisions regarding taxation, borrowing of money by the government and expenditures or contributions to the Consolidated Fund of India. The Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to a Money Bill once it is passed by the Lok Sabha.
It provides for “good governance, efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, to individuals residing in India through assigning of unique identity numbers to such individuals”, the bill summary said.
Jaitley said that the bill will empower the states to distribute resources of the State to deserving people and save the resources that undeserving people get.
“The effect is going to be on the Central and State governments which will save thousands of crores,” Jaitley said.
Earlier, when the Finance Minister moved the bill for consideration and passage, he said that the delivery of targeted subsidy through Aadhaar cards of LPG consumers had resulted in savings of over `15,000 crore. He said that four states, which had started delivery in the Public Distribution System by a similar exercise on a pilot basis, had saved more than `2,300 crore.
As the bill was taken up for consideration, many opposition parties including the Congress, Left and the Biju Janata dal (BJD), wanted it to be referred to a standing committee.
BJD’s B Mehtab said, “It has been introduced as a money bill. We want to know whether there is an option before a citizen to decide whether they want Aadhaar or not. Please send it to a standing committee to be deliberated upon.”
Congress leader of the house, Mallikarjun Kharge said, “It is necessary for the bill to go to a standing committee.”
Jaitley, however, said that the government had already proposed to move the bill as a money bill and the Speaker had given her ruling on this.
Meanwhile, participating in the debate, the BJD said that there were apprehensions that the bill can be used for “mass surveillance” and “ethnic cleansing”.
BJD’s Tathagat Sathpathy claimed that the United Nations had recently misutilised biometric data of refugees coming from Iraq and Syria to help certain countries keep a tab on them.
Congress’s Rajeev Satav said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Lok Sabha elections and former BJP chief Rajnath Singh had attacked the Aadhaar scheme, while then party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi had said BJP would seek a CBI probe into various aspects of Aadhaar.