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PAN to Aadhaar, universe of unique IDs expanding in India

One of the most highly cited papers in psychology is George Miller’s “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two”, published in 1956. Miller, a Harvard professor at the time, wrote that most adults can store between five and nine items in short-term memory. An Indian, on the other hand, has far more numbers to remember, as the quantum of schemes and unique IDs has been growing.

Last year, the Haryana government launched the Parivar Pehchan Patra scheme. The scheme will accord a unique eight-digit ID to each family and link all state government schemes on subsidy, pension and insurance.

The government’s plan is to link income data to the scheme so that beneficiaries do not have to register for a new scheme each time and can be automatically included or excluded from lists. This is besides the 12-digit Aadhaar number needed for central government schemes.

The initiative comes on the back of the success of neighbouring Rajasthan, which implemented the Bhamashah scheme. Madhya Pradesh has the Samagra ID system, which is again an eight-digit family ID.

While the purpose was to reduce the number of schemes a person must register for and curb leakages in the system, that does not help with the multiplicity of IDs.

Aadhaar was expected to encompass everything, but given security and privacy protocols, it hasn’t achieved that. A person has a PAN number for tax purposes, a voter ID for election, and a unique health ID for vaccination and health-related data. Besides, there is a driving licence and bank account number. This is besides the mobile phone number.

The government in 2019 ann­oun­ced that it would start distributing 12-digit unique IDs to farmers, which will encompass all the agriculture-related schemes. The government also has a unique ID for persons with disabilities. There is a unique ID for property across 12 states, a corporate ID for each company and one unique ID for migrant workers.

The government has been combining schemes and trying to put more schemes under the ambit of Aadhaar. Analysis of ministry-wise data shows that until July last year, 312 schemes were linked to Aadhaar. Of these, 20 were under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and 41 were under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. Ten ministries accounted for 70 per cent of linked schemes.

The above list does not account for state-sponsored schemes. While the family ID is a good start for the government to combine all state government schemes under one umbrella, governments can easily do this by assigning all Aadhaar IDs to one family unit and then distributing benefits based on that information. Business Standard

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