April 13, 2017

UPC TATTOOS SEEM THE EASIEST WAY TO GO:

India's ID system is reshaping ties between state and citizens (The Economist, Apr 12th 2017)

Linking ration cards to an Aadhaar number, and thus to the biometric data tied to it, means a single person cannot have more than one and ghosts can have none. The original pitch to politicians--the scheme was adopted by the previous government, but has been embraced by Narendra Modi, the prime minister--was that Aadhaar would help make welfare more efficient. The potential gains are huge. One official estimate suggests that "leakage" in subsidy payments meant that only 27% of the money ended up in the right hands: not so much a leaky bucket as a sieve.

Over 400,000 ghost children were struck off school rolls in just three states after schools were required to match their pupils to Aadhaar numbers to keep receiving state funds. By weeding out false claims, authorities say they have saved $8bn in two-and-a-half years; the annual central-government budget for subsidies is about $40bn. That may be an exaggeration, and critics say there are other ways to improve the administration of subsidies. But the savings clearly outstrip the roughly $1bn cost of deploying Aadhaar.

Changing the mechanics of how a benefit is received is often just as important as the benefit itself. Development experts like the fact that, at least in theory, a villager can gain access to a subsidy in a distant city. This removes a big barrier to internal migration. A project to purge electoral lists found 800,000 fictitious voters in Punjab, a state of 30m. The authorities suspect that 30% of driving licences are fake, many of them duplicates to help drivers evade bans--a ruse that would be impossible if all licences were linked to Aadhaar.

Indeed, the improvements in accuracy and efficiency are so enormous that the government now wants to use Aadhaar more broadly than originally advertised. 

Posted by at April 13, 2017 6:35 AM

  

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