Sunday, October 21, 2012

Aadhaar vs Voter ID

On Saturday, the Prime Minister launched the Aadhaar-enabled service delivery initiative in 51 districts across the country. It will be used for making pension payments, MNREGA payments, PDS distribution, scholarship payments and other social welfare schemes. As per the Prime Minister, the intended beneficiaries include 5 crore MNREGA workers, 1.5 crore students who avail of scholarships, 2 crore old age pensioners, and 3 crore families who get medical facilities. The Aadhar will also serve  as identity proof for opening bank accounts, gas and mobile connections etc, says the Prime Minister.

Could the Voter Identity card not have served the same purpose?

In a democracy, it is of utmost importance that elections invite the widest possible participation from voters and that voting be seen as participation in nation building and a primary duty of every citizen. Indian democracy suffers from many ills, not the least of which is the apathy and non participation in the electoral process of millions and millions of voters, specially those who belong to the educated middle class. If the voter identity card were made the most important document that a citizen could possess, there would be a sea change in the attitude that citizens have towards participation in the electoral process. They would begin to look at the Voter card and the attendant electoral process not as an optional activity to be undertaken at one's leisure, if at all, but as an integral part of a citizen's life. If mobile connections, gas connections, bank accounts, social welfare benefits, registration of property transactions, college admissions, stock transactions, high value purchases of consumer goods etc etc required that the Voter Identity card be presented, it would become imperative for citizens to obtain a Voter Identity card. It would be viewed then as a document as necessary to one's existence as the Ration Card once was ----- and the frequent excuse trotted out by many that they do not vote because they do not have a Voter ID card would no longer hold valid. All the demographic and bio metric information that is now being included in Aadhar could become embedded in the Voter ID card, and serve the same purposes ---- proof of identity, and a fail-safe method of preventing identity fraud and leakages of social welfare benefits.

Over the last two years, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has generated over 20 crore Aadhaar numbers and it is mandated to cover 60 crore people by March 2014. There are roughly 80 crore voters in India. Had the time, money and effort spent on Aadhar been expended on streamlining the process of obtaining Voter Identity cards, providing each and every Indian eligible to vote with a Voter ID card, and making the ID cards multi functional, Indian democracy would have benefited and there would have been far less controversy and opposition vis a vis the project.

What we will now have in Aadhar is an identity card that possesses greater utility than the Voter ID card, and is far easier to obtain. Even more than before, the indifference towards the need to get registered as a voter will flourish, and in the absence of such registration, participation in the electoral process will remain at its current low levels. The middle class will continue to watch  exposes of corrupt practices on television, extend support to anti corruption crusaders via social media, participate once in a while in protests and rallies, but when clean and competent candidates present themselves, the potential voters will remain glued to television screens, watching election analyses, and not be seen at polling booths casting their votes.


  1. The Aadhaar project is itself so powerful that it has attracted so many people toward it and this is the reason why the response from the people of the country is exceeding the expected value of its regulatory body, the UIDAI. This is a good scheme and will surely curb the cases of corruption in the entire system. We should participate in these types of government programs as they all are beneficial to us at the end.

  2. I was of the view that aadhaar could have been made mandatory for the Income Tax payees. It could have been made mandatory for the driving license or for land registrations etc. Now once aadhaar coverage in a state increases beyond 99% then it will open up many possibilities. It would be possible to have aadhaar linked pension payment, scholarships and even voting as you say. In short it will be the key to many possibilities.