An authentication is recorded when a citizen submits his Aadhaar number or biometric data for availing a government service, or for linking to an existing service such as a banking for customer authentication.
With the Supreme Court stalling the full-fledged implementation of the contentious Aadhaar Act on grounds of violation of privacy, the use of unique identity card for accessing essential services has declined by 42 percent from a high of 1.48 billion transactions in September 2017 to 859 million transactions in June 2018.
An authentication is recorded when a citizen submits his Aadhaar number or biometric data - fingerprint or retina scan - for availing a government service, or for linking to an existing service such as a banking and telephony, for customer authentication.
Data on the number of monthly authentications collated by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), when viewed in relation with the timeline of the Aadhaar case, reveals that user confidence as a reflection of the number of authentications, closely dovetails with the series of interim verdicts of the Supreme Court.
The number of authentications increased progressively in the months leading up to the government's earlier deadline of December 31 for the linking of Aadhaar for availing essential financial services and government schemes. Aadhaar clocked 814.5 million authentications in June 2017, before registering numbers in excess of a billion for the months of September, October and November, at 1.47, 1.46 and 1.36 billion authentications, respectively.
The latest low was reached within three months of the Supreme Court extending the deadline for linking Aadhaar to continue receiving the benefits of government welfare schemes as well as other services.
A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court is expected to give its verdict regarding the aspects of Aadhaar which are deemed to be in violation with the right to privacy, on July 5. The deadline to link permanent account numbers (PAN) with Aadhaar was extended to March 31 next year, while that for availing rations under the public distribution system (PDS) has been moved to September 30.
After peaking in September 2017, the use of Aadhaar has been on the wane, with March 2018 being the exception. The number of Aadhaar authentications in March touched 1.197 billion before reaching those witnessed in the year-ago-period. The spike in the number of authentications in March should be seen in the context of the Supreme Court issuing interim orders on March 13, making Aadhaar mandatory for subsidies and benefits under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act.
However, on the same day, the court extended the last date for linking Aadhaar to bank accounts, PAN cards, SIM cards to March 31, 2018 until the date of the final judgement.
The use of one's Aadhaar number for user-verification purposes has also declined. Demographic authentication, which is the process of inspecting the biometric data linked with an Aadhar number for establishing identity, dropped to 170 million in June 2018, from 741.6 million in September 2017.According to UIDAI, roughly 900 million bank accounts and an equal number of SIM cards have been linked with Aadhaar after the government set a deadline of March 31, 2018. The decline in Aadhaar usage might not augur well for the government's push for making it a mandatory identifier of citizens, but attaining a saturation point in enrollment before encompassing the entire populace would mean that certain sections are outside the ambit of crucial welfare schemes.