Shattering government's well maintained position on Aadhaar that benefits are not being denied because of the digital identity system, a new report has confirmed what authors and commentators have been fearing for long – Aadhaar does lead to exclusion. A survey done by IDInsight has found out that 0.8 per cent, 2.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent of PDS beneficiaries in rural Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal are excluded from their entitlements due to Aadhaar related factors. This adds up to approximately 2 million individuals monthly.
IDInsight's State of Aadhaar report 2017-18 exposes yet another argument of the government, that it has helped curb leakages. While the report does not explicitly say so, it says that Aadhaar data has huge errors. About 8.8 per cent of Aadhaar-holders reported errors on their name, age, address, or other information on their Aadhaar letter. Compared to voter IDs, the error-rate on Aadhaar was 1.5 times higher. One can fairly assume that faulty data cannot help curb leakages. In fact, data error creates problems in Aadhaar seeding, which could lead to denial of benefits.
Despite government's efforts to strengthen e-KYC for Aadhaar, Aadhaar's analog version, that is the paper ID, is much more widely used to open bank accounts than its digital version. 67 per cent of bank account holders used their Aadhaar letter to open their most recent account, and only 17 per cent used e-KYC.
The report further buttresses the belief of privacy evangelists. More than 96 per cent of respondents valued privacy and thought it is important to know what the government will do with their Aadhaar data.
Findings of the report are significant, considering the ongoing case on Aadhaar in Supreme Court. After hearing arguments for four months, the apex court has reserved its judgement.
While UIDAI has made claims about the system being fool-proof, activists doubt it, as there are cases of Aadhaar numbers being disclosed by government departments every other day. Moreover, there have been starvation deaths in Jharkhand because of PDS being denied.