Aadhaar biometric authentication expands to good governance measures as state plans welfare fraud crackdown

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India’s government continues to expand the role of biometric authentication through the Aadhaar system, issuing rules in the lower chamber of parliament for federal and state agencies to use Aadhaar authentication for public service delivery, the Times of India reports.

The Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020 grants the government the ability to approve agencies for access to Aadhaar to prevent fund leakage.

As the expansion of Aadhaar for good governance has been considered, critics have worried that the move will increase exclusion in the system. The broad use of Aadhaar was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2018, which ruled that its legal basis extended only to public sector programs. Aadhaar biometrics use has also been mooted as a means of organizing COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Minister of State for Electronics and IT Sanjay Dhotre wrote to the Lok Sabha that the new rules allowing the central government to extend Aadhaar authentication to new entities can enable better access to services.

Indian state plans biometric verification to prevent welfare fraud

The government of the Eastern Indian state of Odisha is planning to launch a social protection delivery platform and registry to weed out ghost beneficiaries from welfare schemes with data from Aadhaar and bank accounts, according to the Hindustan Times.

Aadhaar biometric authentication and bank account verification can be used to clean up the database of beneficiaries, state finance secretary AKK Meena said.

There are roughly 60 social assistance programs operated by the Odisha government, accounting for a large share of its budget. Various programs count some 70 percent of the state’s 42 million people as beneficiaries, but the Times reports there are alleged to be ineligible recipients and deceased people in program databases.

Aadhaar verification was set to become mandatory for a national assistance program and monthly pensions in Odisha last month, before the state government temporarily suspended the plan. The Times notes that 50,000 people were asked to return funds which they were allegedly not eligible for from a single program.

Another program for grants to farmers is putting an algorithm in place to detect anomalies that may indicate fraud.

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