Usage of Aadhar card for welfare – non-welfare transactions Current Affairs – 30th March, 2017

Usage of Aadhar card for welfare – non-welfare transactions Current Affairs – 30th March, 2017

Usage of Aadhar card for welfare – non-welfare transactions

Introduction

Aadhar is a 12 digit unique identification number which the government wants to use to authenticate users of all government benefits to streamline spending and weed out ghost beneficiaries and leakages.

Issue:

The Supreme Court’s oral observations on Monday regarding the use of Aadhaar numbers by the government are significant, for they alter the narrative and potential scope of the ambitious unique identification programme.

  • While reiterating its position that no beneficiary of a welfare scheme shall be denied benefits due to her for want of an Aadhaar number, the court said –
    • The government is free to “press” for Aadhaar for ‘non-welfare’ transactions or activities.
    • These include filing income tax returns, opening bank accounts or getting a mobile phone connection.
  • This assumes significance as the government announced two such changes over the past week itself.
    • First, it included amendments to the Finance Bill of 2017, now approved by the Lok Sabha, making Aadhaar mandatory for all applications for PAN (Permanent Account Number) cards and filing of income tax returns.
    • Earlier, following the surge in bank deposits after the demonetisation of high-value currency notes, the Income Tax Department had already asked banks to ensure that all savings bank accounts are seeded with PAN details by the end of February.
    • The only exemptions to this norm are the no-frills savings accounts such as those opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.
    • Effectively, this means that all other new savings bank accounts will require an Aadhaar number.
    • And last week the Department of Telecommunications directed all telecom service providers to re-verify the credentials of their nearly 100 crore subscribers through an Aadhaar-based, electronically authenticated Know Your Customer process within a year.

Aaadhar and Concerns:

While the Supreme Court’s observations do not amount to a judicial order, they dispel some of the ambiguity relating to the scope, even future, of Aadhaar.

  • In its interim order in October 2015 the court made it clear that the Aadhaar scheme cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided “one way or the other”.
    • But it has set the stage for the 12-digit Unique Identification (UID) numbers being used as the basic identity proof for all residents.
    • As Finance Minister has pointed out, biometrics captured under the Aadhaar enrolment process will ensure no individual can hold more than one PAN card to evade tax dues.
  • Those concerned about privacy may be right about the need for an effective law to ensure that private data aren’t misused.
    • But tagging this concern solely to the UID programme is short-sighted.
    • The apex court is yet to decide on whether Aadhaar violates the right to privacy.
  • In an age where data are stored in electronic form, it is possible to collate vast amounts of information from various databases ranging from applications for passports, driving licences, ration cards, and more.
  • Meanwhile, savings from weeding out ghost beneficiaries have begun to pay off the investment on building the now 111-crore strong Aadhaar database.
  • But the Centre must not stretch the leeway granted by the court.

Conclusion:

Aadhar is an important identification document that ahs a promise to go long way in achieving the dream of maximum governance and less cash economy. The savings it can result can also effectively increase spending on infrastructure and social sector. Hence there is need for an approach that is holistic and well thought out.

Connecting the dots:

  • Critically analyse the impact of Aadhar in digital governance and less cash economy. Elaborate on concerns in making it mandatory.

Role of natural forest in combating climate change

  • Role of natural forests in addressing the global challenge of climate change is often overlooked area.
  • Forests are significant carbon sinks but their rapid conversion to supply key commodities like wood pulp, palm oil, timber and natural rubber threatens to undermine efforts on climate.
  • With growing of India’s economy, the demand for natural resources also grows. Collectively, the impact of growing demand on forest products is also increasing.
  • Thus, greater focus from government and industry is needed to reduce the impact of trade in these key commodities on natural forests around the world.

Role in climate change

  • Forests cover 30% of the world’s land surface, and are home to around 90% of the world’s land-based animals, plants, insects and birds. They are also one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, absorbing 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year and storing billions more.
  • However, forests play a complex role in keeping the planet cool, one that goes far beyond the absorption of carbon dioxide.
  • Trees also impact climate by regulating the exchange of water and energy between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere. Thus, they play an important role in cooling the Earth’s surface.
  • A new study has found that while forests often absorb more solar radiation than grasslands or croplands, they also put more moisture into the air and promote more mixing of the air near the surface than those shorter types of vegetation.
  • Also, forests can act as safety net for local communities, helping them cope with climate shocks. Mangrove forests, for example, can hold back storm surges or cyclonic flooding.

Forests and trade

  • No doubt, forest-based products’ trade is one of the largest in the world.
  • Research have shown strong links between Indian imports of forest-based products and some of the world’s most high conservation value landscapes in South-East Asia and Africa.
  • The forest based commodities go into making of everyday goods such as paper, tyres, furniture, vegetable oils and even FMCG products such as soaps, detergents and noodles.
  • But it is invariably ignored that these forests are home to some of the most endangered species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos.
  • Today, these forests have become among the world’s major ‘deforestation fronts’ — areas which are predicted to witness the highest forest loss and degradation over the next two decades.
  • Indonesia and Myanmar are major two countries with which India has prominent forest-based commodity trade flows.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, highest net loss of annual forest area in the world has been reported in these two countries. Indonesia lost 684,000 hectares of forest area at a rate of 0.7% per annum and Myanmar lost 546,000 hectares of forest area at a rate of 1.8% per annum.
  • In addition, countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia from where India sources a large share of its industrial roundwood and veneer for the making of furniture and fixtures, are experiencing among the fastest rates of acceleration of tree-cover loss in the world.

Recognising the importance of forests

  • There is a need of collective effort throughout the world. In this recognition, number of public and private initiatives have emerged in recent times.
  • Regulatory frameworks such as the Lacey Act in the US, FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) and EUTR (EU Timber Regulation) in the EU have been introduced.
  • These regulations aim at driving greater legality and transparency in global forestry supply chains.
  • At global level, the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 has already recognised and acknowledged the key role that resilient forests and landscapes play in mitigating climate change.
  • As a result of it, nearly 80 countries identified the land sector, which covers agriculture and forestry, in their climate action plans as an area of focus for reducing emissions.
  • At corporate level, the 2014 Climate Summit in New York saw 53 of the world’s largest companies such as Cargill, PepsiCo, Unilever sign the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), through which they committed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains.
  • The result since adoption of NYDF is that the movement to tackle deforestation linked to agricultural commodities like palm oil, timber, pulp and paper, soy and cattle, has developed rapidly, particularly within the private sector.
  • REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is at the forefront of the international community’s effort’s to preserve vast tracts of land currently home to forests. It incentivises conservation and sustainable management of forests, together with the enhancement of forests as carbon stocks – through reforestation and afforestation.

Conclusion

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