Aadhaar, India’s ambitious biometric ID project, was portrayed as one that would enhance India’s welfare efforts by promoting inclusion and reducing corruption. From being a voluntary ID, it has become de facto compulsory for most welfare programmes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the Public Distribution System (PDS). Despite early warnings of its limited role in its stated objected, successive government’s have ramped up its use. Using a variety of data sources, this paper reviews the impact of Aadhaar on welfare programmes. Far from being inclusive and reducing corruption, Aadhaar is becoming a tool of exclusion, with little evidence of an impact on corruption in NREGA, PDS and pensions, etc. The government’s estimates of savings are examined, but these do not stand scrutiny. What passes as ‘savings’ is often the result of denial of legal entitlements for lack of Aadhaar. In that sense, the Aadhaar project undermines the right to life.


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