Spreading JAM - Part 2 (The 'A')

In the Economic Survey report released along with the annual budget, the government released data regarding the number of new bank accounts opened (Jan Dhan Yojana), new Aadhaar (identification) cards issued, and Mobile phone penetration. To track the progress of this trifecta of issues, the writers of the report have coined the acronym 'JAM' and improving these metrics is frequently referred to as 'spreading JAM.' At Vartaa, we too thought that the 3 metrics were important to track to get a better idea of overall socio-economic progress in the country. In part 2 of this series we will examine the progress of 'Aadhaar.'

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a central government agency of India. Its objective is to collect the biometric and demographic data of residents, store them in a centralized database, and issue a 12-digit unique identity number called Aadhaar to each resident. This number will serve as proof of identity and address anywhere in India. Why is Aadhaar important? The benefits of a unique ID are many. Most importantly, if the government wishes to transfer benefits to those in need, first and foremost, it needs to identify the beneficiaries. Failure to do so will lead to 'inclusion error.' The government needs databases of eligible individuals. "...Beneficiary databases have existed for long before Aadhaar, but their accuracy and legitimacy have been hampered by the administrative and political discretion involved in granting identity proofs like BPL cards, driving licenses and voter IDs. Ghost and duplicate names crept into beneficiary lists, leading to leakage. Aadhaar’s virtue lies in using technology to replace human discretion, while keeping the system simple enough (fingerprints and iris scans) for citizens to understand.," says the Economic Survey of India report.

So how has the government fared with respect to issuing Aadhaar cards? Just like Jan Dhan, the progress has indeed been impressive. The current government has built on the support of the previous government for the program. In 2015 alone, 210 million Aadhaar cards were issued at an incredible pace of 4 million per week! As of March 2016, with almost a billion Aadhaars, more than 95% of the country's adult population has an Aadhaar card.

The government has turned its attention towards enrolling minors. Some states as you can see from the chart (Delhi for e.g.) have more than 100% Aadhaar coverage of population - this is mostly because of migrant populations in the state and population growth since 2015. Along with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the North Eastern states have low coverage and this is also where the government has now shifted its focus. Next week, we will look at mobile connectivity. Be prepared to look at some mind boggling statistics again!

*Chart renders best on Desktop. We publish a modified version for phone.