Indian IT Minister says Aadhaar saves government millions per year, backs 880 million bank accounts

Indian IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad defended the Aadhaar program at a ministry conference and declined to say what the government planned to do should the program be quashed or drastically curtailed by a ruling from the country’s Supreme Court, the Times of India reports.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling soon on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar in general, as well as specific elements and practices associated with the world’s largest identity scheme.

“(T)he judgment (on the case) is reserved but I believe our Aadhaar team lawyers have argued it with proof, and Aadhaar has already established its benefits for the public,” Prasad said.

Nearly 880 million bank accounts belonging to more than 590 million Indian citizens have been linked to Aadhaar, he said. Close to 4 trillion rupees (US$59 billion) in benefit payments to the poor have been disbursed using the system, saving the government 900 million rupees ($13.2 million) in payments to fictitious beneficiaries over the last four years, according to Prasad. He also said the legal framework for Aadhaar has improved significantly under the guidance of the current government.

“Let us see the difference between Narendra Modi Government’s Aadhaar and that of Manmohan Singh … The old Aadhaar was Niradhar (without basis) … there was no legislative support to that platform. Today, Aadhaar has a robust parliamentary law,” Prasad stated.

The UIDAI recently delayed the deadline for implementing facial recognition with Aadhaar by a month to give the government more time to develop the system.

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