Feeding insecurities

Aadhaar does more damage than good in welfare programmes
Successful and transformative, the school midday meal scheme is not without its shortcomings, but Aadhaar linkage is not the remedy. File photo: MA Sriram
It is widely believed that Aadhaar-Based Biometric Authentication (ABBA) is necessary to improve the delivery of welfare programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), Public Distribution System (PDS), social security pensions, and so on. This is a misconception. We have been studying these programmes for a decade, focusing mainly on the source of leakages and how the states are trying to plug them. The findings suggest that the UPA-2 government oversold Aadhaar because of a poor understanding of the leakage mechanisms in MNREGA and PDS. Even in principle, ABBA can bring limited improvements in welfare schemes. For instance, the main source of leakage in PDS is ‘quantity fraud’ — that is, the beneficiary signs for the full monthly entitlement (say, 25 kg), but the dealer gives them less. Continued...
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