Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why is Aadhaar an Important Document?

Among the problems with the aadhaar project, one is that a vast number of people who enrolled have not received the number via post or had their enrollment packet rejected and hence an aadhaar number was never generated in their name. In both cases the solution is simple. Visit the website and enter details of enrollment and download e-aadhaar. In second case just enroll again.

Yet, a vast majority of people are unable to do these things and hence criticizing the project unnecessarily.

What does a common man needs to know of the aadhaar project? Why is aadhaar an important document? I will try to answer these questions in a moment but let me give a brief on how this project came into being.

After Kargil war it was felt that citizens need an identity document which they need to carry on their person to prove who they are. Such a document was necessary, it was felt from the security point of view. Hence a project called Multi-Purpose National Identity Card(MNIC) was conceived. Indeed a project to give identification to every Indian was the brain child of Atal ji's government. This project would have rolled out had the BJP come to power in 2004. But when congress took power they never bothered to continue any of the projects of the previous government. Someone in the Ministry of Information Technology came out with a proposal to Uniquely Identify BPL families. The project Unique Identification for BPL Families was to have collected biometrics of the poor people in a family and give them a unique number. This was meant to identify them and serve as a way of authenticating them so that the Public Distribution System(PDS) could rid itself of fake/duplicate ration cards and real beneficiaries could be identified.

This idea found resonance among ministers of UPA-I and they kept discussing the project for nearly three years from Feb,2006 to Jan,2009 when UIDAI was formed. All these years could have been used to merge the Unique Identification project into the MNIC project but the ministries involved engaged in turf wars. Everyone knew they were going to do something fundamental using technology and hence wanted to be in the drivers seat and take credits. MNIC turned into National Population Register (NPR) a project which was started in 1965 and never pursued seriously by congress.

After congress won the elections in 2009, they appointed Nandan Nilekani as head of UIDAI. This brought vigour into a project that could have met the same fate as other projects. UIDAI was created with a sort of start-up gusto and patriotic fervor. Nandan called himself a pro-Bono mercenary. Fresh after writing a book on imagining India he got his hands full, on an important assignment given to him by none other than the prime minister himself.

Several important decisions were taken early into the design of the scheme. Voluntary enrolment, national roll-out and universal coverage. Twelve digits. Fingerprinting all ten fingers, iris and face biometrics. Private agencies to do enrolment. Registrars to hire agencies. Enrolment kits.

They kept their heads down and kept working conducting studies, documenting processes, testing and certifying hardware, proof of concept and preliminary cost benefit analysis and many more things which I would never know of.

Enrollments started on 30th September,2010. They stand currently at 750 million and aadhaar's generated for 676 million.

Several arguments have been made justifying the project. Lack of universal birth registration being one of them. Cost benefit analysis showed humongous benefits to the government and people too. The aborted DBTL scheme of the congress showed that DBT works at scale. The Modi government has decided to continue enrolments and may restart DBTL. The Jan Dhan Scheme fits into the DBT project like a much needed spoke. Other pillars for successful launch of DBT will be ubiquitous telecom connectivity, high tele-density and penetration of 3G/4G and also the success of the NOFN project. Another enabler will be electricity in the villages. I am sure the Modi government is working on all of these.

Now comes the answer to why aadhaar would be a very important document. It has all the properties of a good identity document. National Recognition. Mobility. Use on any mobile/handheld. Aadhaar will be a financial address of the masses. A killer application of aadhaar would be its use as a bridge in money transfers. In a short time wallet companies would be linking the wallets with aadhaar so that money could be transferred from one wallet to another. Then there will be aadhaar based mobile banking. Then an aadhaar based money transfer within the net banking facilities of banks. Once these things stabilize it would be the time of mobile contact-less swipe at POS machines which would really be the ultimate in electronic cash transactions.

So to take part in all of the e-cash transactions you would need an aadhaar linked bank account which makes it necessary for you to have aadhaar in the first place. All this needs time but the initial tremors are being felt and a shakeup is in the offing.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Aadhaar Roundup-3

Aadhaar project is well on its way to completion. Nearly 730 enrollments have happened and 650 million aadhaar numbers have been generated as of 28th July,2014. Nearly 45 million enrollment packets were rejected as duplicates. The project has crossed several hurdles till now and faced the litmus test several times.
The first and foremost is that the new NDA government has chosen to complete the enrollments into aadhaar. They have sanctioned nearly 2000 crore for enrollments of nearly 10 crore more people in this fiscal year 2014-15. This is higher than what the UPA provided in its last year in office. There was an important meeting of the prime minister, finance minster and various cabinet secretaries where all issues regarding aadhaar were discussed. The finance minster Mr. Arun Jaitley has been told to sort out the legal issues surrounding making aadhaar mandatory. Also it has been decided that the NIAI(National Identification Authority of India) bill pending since 2010 will be passed as soon as possible.
The turnaround in the NDA stance on aadhaar came after a crucial meeting of prime minster with Mr. Nandan Nilekani(Ex-Chairman,UIDAI) on July 1st where he gave a presentation on aadhaar. The new government appears to be in no hurry to foist a half baked solution on the people. So aadhaar enrollments continue but its linkage to DBTL or PDS is kept in abeyance. The aadhaar would purportedly be used to only eliminate duplicate and ghost identities in beneficiary lists. Its use as a bridge in sending benefits to bank accounts may need other pillars like financial inclusion in place which may take some more time. This cautious approach is not only wise, this is brilliant and pragmatic.
After having travelled so far the aadhaar project is now getting rolled out in hard to enroll places like eastern UP, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. It has faced maoist threats. Lawlessness pervades in these areas where mafia rules. It would be difficult for the enrollment agencies to enroll people at the same cost that they did in safer areas of the country. Enrollments are at 10-12 million levels per month as of july,2014. They are expected to accelerate to normal rate of 30 million per month. Several state governments such as AP, Karnataka and Maharashtra have decided to use aadhaar to eliminate bogus ration cards.
Out of respect for some aadhaar related blogs and sites I am giving a link to them.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What makes us unique – A few Statistics

Some stats from my memory, which you will find interesting, in case you didn’t know. I divide them into two categories viz those stats that are likely to improve and those that will worsen. I am sure there are a million other ways of looking at things and that many other stats. These are some i know about.

Improving and likely to improve further:-

These statistics are showing improvement and are likely to improve further.

While agriculture provides the largest source of employment its share in economic output as a percentage has reduced to 18% employing nearly 50% of the labour force. Agricultural growth is needed to increase income. As lesser and lesser number of people depend on agriculture per capita income of agriculturists will increase. Prices of food items has risen several fold in the past few years and many farmers have become rich overnight.
Energy Deficit
Non-renewable sources of energy are expected to exhaust soon. Our present energy deficit where we import nearly 80% of our petroleum requirements might cease to exist in four to five decades as petro stocks dwindle. We are endowed with large renewable resources such as solar and wind energy.
Electricity T&D among highest in the world
Most state electricity boards have reported improvement in T&D losses which are at a high 20-25%. The reduction in losses is being aided by modern methods/devices of electricity distribution and slow migration to smart grids. Per capita consumption of power has increased and is now at nearly 800 units per person per year.
Giant strides in education are being taken and literacy would soon reach eighty to ninety percent in another decade. We are losing our uniqueness on this dimension fast. People are recognizing the importance of educating their children.
Low Telecom and Internet Penetration
A large percentage of consumers have wireless as a means of connectivity in the last mile. Rural tele density which was very low before the advent of mobile phones has reached nearly 40%. Urban areas have nearly 100% tele-density and almost everyone in cities now owns a mobile phone. Smartphone sales have started picking up and the trickle is turning into an avalanche. Internet penetration has reached 200 million users in which a majority access through their mobiles. Internet user base is increasing at a rate of 6 million every month at this time (July,2014). Mobile data consumption has doubled in the last one year. There are a large number of students using the internet as a learning tool.
Cash heavy economy
The number of credit and debit cards is slowly picking up. The number of ATMs has crossed the figure of 1 lakh and is set to cross 5 lakh in five years. The figure of Per capita ATM machines in India is among the lowest in the world. Financial Inclusion is the new mantra. There are nearly 400million debit cards and 24 million credit card users. Computerization in banks has made it easier to give better service to customers. Internet banking, mobile banking and branchless banking have made it a very different playfield.
Caste and Religion hold sway
Slow progress in cutting away divisions of caste and creed is apparent. There is improvement in the orthodox thinking of the earlier generation and the newer generation is more open minded. There are more and more inter caste and inter religion marriages. Reservations even though not a good step to reduce inequities is working at reducing poverty among dalits. People esp the lower castes suffered as a consequence of the rigid structure of the society. Beliefs and value systems in the society are changing. Wealth is a new parameter of class and caste is losing its hold. Modern thinking youth are thinking differently than their elders and questioning unfair practices, taboos, traditions and rules.
No proper town planning
Our cities and towns lack proper planning of roads and other civic amenities. We are losing an opportunity to plan our cities by improper laws and restrictions. Most towns have controls over FSI (Floor Space Index) and this has a bearing on the rental rates which are among the highest in the world. Most towns have controls such as in Bangalore where development cannot happen in the green belt. Such restrictions have caused illegal and unregulated development in the green belt. This is a lost opportunity at development with proper planning.

Worsening and likely to worsen further:-

Environmental degradation
Water scarcity and desertification are a reality we are staring at and this seeming worsening of matters should be turned into sustainable equilibrium by determined action. River interlinking can be a solution to problems of excess and shortages. Stricter implementation of pollution standards and zero tolerance for law breakers needed. Government should work with the industry to take our businessmen into confidence. It is not necessary that Industry partake with the profits and benefit citizens. They should at-least take measures to not harm their health as a consequence of their operations. Those industries that draw resources such as water, electricity and minerals and those that exploit labour such as mines should implement steps to mitigate the impact of their operations.
Low rates of divorce
While divorce rates are very low in our country there is a gradual increase in the numbers. This shows that couples are no longer willing to put up with unhappy marriages. While this development looks to be a worsening from the past it also correlates with increasing incomes and greater financial freedom of the female. Hence increasing divorce rates seem to be a natural consequence of development.
Sex Ratio
This is a statistic which is a cause for concern. There are only 930 females for every 1000 males.

Indian Market Overview

Comparing India and China, we don’t have censorship of the internet. We go with the flow and accepted facebook and twitter as our own. We use Google for searches. We read from the same news sites that the world reads from and there is no censorship of that. In India foreign companies are free to set up 100% owned units in most of the sectors and engage in business and repatriate 100% of the profits.
Facebook has a target of having 1 billion users from India. This means pretty soon Indians will overtake the Americans as the biggest chunk of Fb users from any country. Americans and their multinationals on their part have been less than helpful, treating India as just another market. To them China is the place to be, a place to locate their factories and India a place to sell their produce. This world order will change very soon.
India has been exporting its human resources to USA since ages and at a great loss. Many US organizations have a high percentage of Indians. Things are changing slowly and lesser number of students have opted for higher studies in the US this year than last. India relinquished its first position in sending the largest number of students for higher studies, to china. 100 thousand Indian students take admission in US varsities every year.
India is undergoing a revolution in the Internet and Mobile sphere. Internet penetration which was less than 10 percent has risen fast, mostly due to Internet access through smart devices. Now we have more than 240 million users and expected to rise to 360 million internet users by the end of 2015.
Mobile operators have seen revenues from Data double in six months. ARPUs have started rising and this has raised earnings. There has been a rapid rollout of 3G across the cities. Consumers have turned from being petitioners to being aspirational. I have many things to say on this but i cut short the talk and continue some other day.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chunaav Ke Baad Ki Kahani

Narendra Modi               : Ab Ki Baar
Rahul Gandhi                 : Kidar ?
Mayavathi                      : Behenji Dikhti Nahi
Mulayam Singh             : Zandu Balm ?
Lalu Prasad                    : Laaten Gayab
Jayalalitha                      : Amma Majbooth
Mamatha Bannerji         : Goonj uthi Shehnai
Karunanidhi                   : Raja Ya Runk?
Nitish Kumar                 : Bihar may Bhookamp
Ram Vilas Paswan         : Aye Din Bahar Ke
Chandrababu Naidu       : Naidu Ban Gaya Gentleman

Sunday, May 18, 2014

NaMo Ambition 2014-2019

Narendra modi led NDA is handed a majority and guess what!!! It is a rock solid government never seen since 30 years. NaMo after he is sworn in and settles down is sure to face increased aggression from Pakistan. If the first few days pass without any eventuality like riots or something then these are the statistics that would show up after 5 years. Let us see which ones are easier or more difficult to achieve.

1)    1 USD= 38 rupees. This is probably the best possible outcome but a lot would depend on how our exports perform. It is a realistic target. Indian currency is expected to appreciate even without a BJP government but a target like this is a medium term goal. Intrinsic value of rupee looking at PPP is somewhere around 14-16 per dollar. If economy improves it may achieve even more.

2) India Shall be a manufacturing hub for consumer electronics, heavy  machinery, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, defence arms and ammunitions. This too is easy to achieve since India is already almost there in pharmaceuticals and automobiles.

3)    Indian Export Business 450 billion USD per year. Current exports are near 300 billion per year. So exports of 450 billion by 2019 means a growth of 8.5 percent every year which is quite achievable. Current export growth is near 5-6 percent with wide variation. If volatility is curbed and sustainable increase in exports is achieved then it would mean a lot.

4)     At least 30 universities shall fall under top 100 universities all over the world. Among all the targets this one is probably the most difficult to achieve. Rome was not built in a day. Not even a single Indian university appears in the top 100 currently. Education is something the BJP government is going to work on a lot.

5)  Indian Agricultural growth with continuous 8-10% of growth every year. This has already been achieved in Gujarat and will not be difficult to replicate in the whole of India.

6) India shall produce cheapest and quality materials in all over the world. This target is something that is vague and without clear goal post. So it goes more as rhetoric than anything material.

7)   Every Indian soldier shall have original bullet proof jackets. This too needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. It is not clear if the bullet proof jackets with soldiers currently are original. And it is not clear who or how achievement of this goal post be measured.

8)  Every Indian soldier shall have best and advanced arms. This is something more measurable than the earlier one and would definitely be a welcome change but still a vague goal post.

9)  To create at least 20 crore employment and convert 20 crore people from BPL to APL. Among all the goals if this is achieved it would be like “sone pe suhaga”(hindi). Pretty difficult but achievable. Current Five year plan speaks of creating 10 crore jobs in the plan period and achieving twice that may be herculean.

~~~~ALL THE BEST~~~~