Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Figures belie PM Aadhaar claims

The Telegraph: New Delhi: Wednesday, August 09, 2017.
Civil society activists today claimed that official statistics on bogus ration cards and fake job cards did not back up the Narendra Modi government's assertions on the benefits of linking Aadhaar numbers to access government schemes.
Several of these activists came together today to share with the media their findings accessed through the Right to Information Act.
Anjali Bhardwaj, an activist with transparency watchdog Satark Nagrik Sangathan, said Prime Minister Modi's February 7 claim in the Lok Sabha that Aadhaar linkage had helped detect 3.95 crore bogus ration cards over the past two-and-a-half years did not stand scrutiny.
In the corrected version of debates uploaded on the Lok Sabha website after the close of the budget session this year, the figure of 3.95 crore had been brought down to 2.33 crore. The amount of savings on account of this detection, however, remained the same at Rs 14,000 crore.
"Since no details of these 3.95 crore ration cards were available online, I filed an RTI application to the Prime Minister's Office seeking a state-wise break-up of the cards that were cancelled on March 7, 2017. The PMO transferred the application to the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD)," Bhardwaj said.
What the DFPD subsequently provided did not add up to what Modi had said in Parliament. "The DFPD led us to a link on its website titled 'Deletion of bogus ration cards by States/UTs'," Bhardwaj said.
"But this was not related to the statement made by the PM as it provides information on bogus cards deleted by state and Union Territory governments from July 2006 onwards and was last updated on February 16, 2016." According to this document, 626.82 lakh bogus/ineligible cards had been deleted over the decade.
A random search online threw up a reply given to the Lok Sabha on February 7, 2017, in which the DFPD said 2,33,11,658 ration cards had been deleted as of November 16, 2016. But this again was data collected for the period 2013 to November 2016, or three-and-a-half years as opposed to the two-and-a-half years claimed by Modi.
Before citing the figures 3.95 crore and two-and-a-half years, Modi had said: "When I speak in the House, I speak with great responsibility."
An RTI application filed by economist-activist Jean Dreze on fake job cards struck off the MGNREGA job scheme has revealed that such cards make up just 4.17 per cent of the total number of deleted cards. Social scientist Reetika Khera said the data revealed that of the 94 lakh cards deleted, around 3.95 lakh were found to be fake against claims of nearly a crore such cards being scrapped.