Around the end of June (2014), (Nandan) Nilekani (then chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)) and his wife Rohini, who runs a social foundation, were vacating their Delhi residence on Safdarjang Lane, packing up to return to their Bengaluru base. They invited [Ram Sevak] Sharma [then CEO, UIDAI] for lunch.
Over lunch Sharma told Nilekani about his presentation to the PM and the response to it. Nilekani was happy to hear this and thanked Sharma for the effort. Then Sharma said, ‘Why don’t you go and meet the Prime Minister? Aadhaar is your idea; it has so much potential, why don’t you make this last attempt for it?’
Nilekani found himself on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, he had lost the election on a Congress ticket and there was the history of campaign rhetoric, all the stuff that had been said. On the other, ‘the thought that Aadhaar could be irretrievably shut down was heart-breaking’.
On 28 June, Nilekani telephoned the PMO and sought time on 1 July. He was given an appointment for noon, 1 July, at South Block, the office of the Prime Minister.
It was a one-on-one meeting. In those thirty minutes, Nilekani outlined the potential of Aadhaar. ‘I explained the platform, its expansion across many states, the applications that had been developed, the possibilities recommended by task forces and committees.’ The PM had a clear understanding of the technology and had questions about migrants and the status of cases in the courts. Nilekani allayed the fears around data security and verification. He pointed to the low cost at which the platform had been developed. He underlined the fact that Aadhaar as a platform ‘could help resolve many issues, including the targeting of subsidies and curbing corruption. It could lead to huge savings to the exchequer.’
Modi met Nilekani on Tuesday. On Thursday, the home ministry was preparing to merge UIDAI and NPR, following a meeting with Rajnath Singh, IT, telecom and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and planning minister Rao Inderjeet Singh.
On Saturday, 5 July, Prime Minister Modi revived Aadhaar.
This followed a meeting with Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, attended by officials of the UIDAI, home ministry, Planning Commission and the PMO. A committee was formed to look into the issues. Modi asked finance minister Jaitley, the legal luminary in the government, to look into legal issues since there were cases pending in the Supreme Court. He also called for the revival of the National Identification Authority of India Bill that had been trashed by the Yashwant Sinha-led parliamentary standing committee.
Prime Minister Modi, when asked by this author, about the revival of Aadhaar and his earlier criticism of it, says, ‘The need for a common identity card was felt since the Vajpayee government was in power. A group of ministers even worked on this. However, not much was done during UPA I to carry forward this vision. Eventually Aadhaar was launched only in the second term of the UPA government.’
According to the Prime Minister, ‘When Aadhaar was launched there were multiple issues and inadequacies with it. They simply could not envisage it holistically as an empowering mechanism for the masses. For them, it was just another scheme. I had suggested many ideas but the UPA regime simply didn’t want to accept any suggestions from Narendra Modi.’
Elaborating on his party’s earlier opposition, Modi says, ‘Our problem was not with the idea of Aadhaar, but with the inadequacies of Aadhaar. We have never opposed anything for the sake of opposition. I do not believe in that kind of politics. The UPA government had a problem of imagination and an even bigger problem of implementation. I knew Aadhaar had potential. For years they ran Aadhaar, but it still didn’t have any parliamentary backing, nor integration with public service delivery.’
Explaining how his government took it forward, the Prime Minister adds, ‘We took a decision to separate the security issues that were raised by home ministry from the issue of Direct Benefit Transfer. We created a committee to look into the legal and technology issues, and we fixed it. We expanded the scope of Aadhaar, amplified the scale and augmented the speed. In a short span of time, the country has already saved about Rs 50,000 crores due to Aadhaar-based systems.’
Narendra Modi is not bound by conventional definitions of ideology. His approach is based on political entrepreneurship, and policy is essentially an instrument to consolidate and expand political subscription. Modi invests a lot of faith in the use of technology — for politics and for public policy. For Modi, therefore, Aadhaar was about using technology, a means to empower outcomes.
sourced by :- economictimesShare: