ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A 'Cost-Benefit' Analysis of UID

A cost-benefi t analysis by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy of the benefits from Aadhaar integration with seven schemes throws up huge benefi ts that are based almost entirely on unrealistic assumptions. Further, the report does not take into account alternative technologies that could achieve the same or similar savings, possibly at lower cost.

A recent study released by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) presents an innovative “cost-benefit analysis” of the Unique Identification (UID) or Aadhaar project. This is, in principle, a welcome step towards more informed discussion and greater transparency of this project. On close examination, however, the widely-publicised conclusions of this study turn out to have a fragile basis.

In a nutshell, the NIPFP report covers the potential use of Aadhaar in seven major welfare schemes and subsidies. These are the public distribution system (PDS), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA, or simply NREGA), school education (including teacher salaries, mid-day meals, textbooks and uniforms), fertiliser subsidy, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy, Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), and payments in other schemes (pensions, Janani Suraksha Yojana, accredited social health activists and the Integrated Child Development Services). It estimates that linking these programmes to Aadhaar will lead to a “saving” of Rs 1 lakh crore over 10 years (Mathew 2012), and that after accounting for the costs of integration with Aadhaar the internal rate of return of the project will be over 50%.

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