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

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To Link or Not to Link

How Aadhaar Impacts the Delivery of Welfare

According to the Government of India, linking Aadhaar with the delivery of welfare schemes has saved nearly `2,73,093 crore till March 2022 due to, apparently, the removal of duplicate/fake beneficiaries and plugging of leakages, etc. What is the overall impact of Aadhaar on welfare delivery? We try to understand this through a case study of MGNREGA in Jharkhand. Surveying nearly 3,000 workers in eight villages in Jharkhand to assess both the costs and benefits of linking MGNREGA with Aadhaar, the paper focuses on its impact on errors of inclusion and exclusion.

The authors are grateful to an anonymous reviewer whose extremely detailed and insightful comments helped us immensely. The study has benefited immensely from the support of Jawahar Mehta, Pradeep Singh, Umesh Singh, and Anita Devi of Vikas Sahyog Kendra, Palamu, Anupa Toppo from the NREGA Sahayata Kendra, Latehar, thousands of workers and several MGNREGA functionaries in rural Jharkhand who welcomed, trusted, and spoke to them. The study was supported by the Digital Identity Research Initiative at the Indian School of Business. Jean Drèze provided inputs at various stages of the study.

Binod Kandulna (name changed) is a seasonal migrant worker from Gutuhatu village of Torpa block in Khunti district. For the last six years, Binod has worked in the brick kilns of Himachal Pradesh. He is the eldest child of his widowed mother. In 2019, Binod decided to return to his village permanently due to frequent health issues and his widowed mother’s sickness. Upon coming back, he searched for suitable work in nearby villages and towns. Around the same time, a fellow villager’s mango orchard plantation work was sanctioned under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Binod, like other workers, applied for work on the orchard through MGNREGA. However, when the muster roll (attendance sheet) was issued, he could not find his name on it. He could not think of a reason as to why this would happen and applied for work again. He did this several times. And yet, the muster rolls that came never had his name. After hunting desperately for work opportunities for over a year, the following lean season, Binod left for Himachal Pradesh—once again, leaving his widowed mother behind.

Why did Binod not find his name on the muster roll? We later found out that his name had been deleted from the family’s job card on 7 July 2017 as it was claimed to be a “duplicate card.” Binod and his family were not informed about the deletion. He kept applying for work. The muster roll kept getting issued without his name, but he was not informed of the reason.

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Updated On : 10th Jan, 2024
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