Balancing the costs and benefits of Aadhaar
The fundamental problem for service delivery in India is not Aadhaar or no Aadhaar, but the lack of systematic focus on the beneficiary experience
At its launch nine years ago, Aadhaar was hailed by its proponents as a “game changer" for governance. Now, the Supreme Court (SC) is considering whether it should be “game over" for Aadhaar. As with many contentious policy debates, each side has its preferred narrative: Supporters claim that linking Aadhaar with social programmes has helped to reduce leakage and improve targeting of benefits. Detractors argue that savings are minimal and that such linking has increased the exclusion of genuine beneficiaries—for instance, through failures to read the fingerprints of elderly recipients or manual labourers or through power and connectivity failures that prevent authentication. Theoretically, both arguments are plausible, which makes this essentially an empirical question.