Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa on Wednesday said that the Government’s unique identity project—Aadhaar should not be undermined as it has brought in significant savings and transparency in schemes.
Terming it a revolutionary measure that has not been done anywhere in the world, Lavasa said that it has huge potential for changing the business of how we transact with each other and the government.
“The platform of Aadhaar should not be undermined,” he stressed, while addressing an Assocham conference, adding that it has provided a unique identity to 105 crore people and indicated it could eventually be the only identifier required.
“This becomes a distinct possibility in India,” he noted.
His comments come at a time when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the amendments to the Finance Bill, 2017 has sought to make the 12-digit number mandatory for filing Income tax Returns and Permanent Account Numbers.
Since then, the Supreme Court has said that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory for benefits but can be used for services like opening bank accounts.
Lavasa further noted that Aadhaar-seeding of bank accounts of beneficiaries under the Direct Benefit Transfer has also had some “palpable achievements”.
“There have been savings in the order of Rs 34,000 crore in schemes were DBT is used,” he said.
At present, there are about 78 schemes, including Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme, Pahal for cooking gas subsidies as well as various scholarship schemes that give direct cash transfers in the beneficiary’s account instead of a subsidy.
Noting that a number of States are now becoming “kerosene free”, the Finance Secretary said that apart from DBT, enablement of Aadhaar seeding has brought a lot of savings.
For instance, Chandigarh has declared itself to be kerosene free in its public distribution system. Lavasa noted that this happened by inter-linking LPG connections with kerosene subsidy using Aadhaar.
Urging industry to work towards the roll out of the goods and services tax, Lavasa said the new tax regime would roll out from July 1. “There is a divergence of view (on the roll out date) of GST, but we must work towards July 1,” he said.
Some sections of the industry have been seeking an extension of the introduction of GST to September 1 to ensure that there is sufficient time for preparation.