Reacting to a recent story on India’s technology-based governance in a renowned magazine and the digital divide that is highlighted, the government claimed on Wednesday that the article is “inaccurate and biased”, “betrays a serious lack of journalistic diligence ”and“ even contradicts past reports ”in this publication.
Taking note of an article published in The Economist on October 16, titled “India’s High Tech Governance Risks Leaving Its Poorest Citizens Behind,” which pointed out that if India’s administrative infrastructure such As Aadhaar propelled such conveniences as digital payments, internet shopping and online schooling, millions of people are still excluded from technology-based government benefits due to India’s size and poverty. and challenges in the areas of electricity supply and mobile and internet connectivity.
An excerpt from The Economist article read: “Given India’s immense scale and complexity, and with its deep pool of highly skilled workers, its governments have increasingly turned to solutions. high tech for all kinds of problems. In general, these have eased the burden on the rulers and the governed, despite some expected problems. Administrative infrastructure such as Aadhaar has propelled such conveniences as digital payments, internet shopping, and online schooling. Yet precisely because of India’s size and poverty, tens of millions of people are still excluded because they are poor, illiterate, disabled, lack electricity, do not own smartphones or cannot connect to a mobile or Wi-Fi network.
Calling this claim as factually flawed, the government said the total number of Aadhaar cardholders over the age of 18 reached 129.48 crore as of June 21, 2021. “According to UIDAI data over the past year year, the UIDAI issued approximately 36 crore of new Aadhaar cards to the adult population. During this period, the highest number of Aadhaar cards were issued in January 2021 when 53.4 lakh (5.34 million) new Aadhaar card holders were added to the list of Indian population with digital identity The government said in a reply published in response to The Economist Article.
The government also cited excerpts from another article published in The Economist on September 5, 2020, titled “Time for Evidence,” to claim that recent history contradicts the publication’s earlier reports.
“Creating a digital identification system is difficult and expensive. Yet India, a gigantic and largely poor country, managed it. Its “Aadhaar” biometric system has created digital identities for 1.3 billion people… it has streamlined government services and massively reduced fraud. If rural Indians can prove who they are online, it is scandalous that many Britons and Americans cannot, ”the reply quoted from the September 2020 article in The Economist.
In the recent article, the author told the story of a Reena Devi, a mother of two from Bihar, who apparently did not receive a widow’s pension after misplacing her Aadhaar card.
“With no phone, no registered mailing address and no registration of her date of birth, Ms. Devi could not retrieve her unique number,” reads an excerpt from the article, highlighting concern that if Devi had lucky to get help, “In a few tragic cases, those who lost access to subsidized food because they could not link their old ration cards to the new Aadhaar cards, or because the fingerprint readers in remote towns do not work properly, starved to death.
The government, in the reply, denounced the “false observations” to say that in such cases, the resident can easily recover their Aadhaar card by going to the nearest Aadhaar registration center. “The resident can receive an Aadhaar number after providing their demographic data and authenticating the biometric data. In the event that demographic details such as address, date of birth, phone number, etc. are not available either, the resident can then go to the nearest Aadhaar Seva Kendra or the relevant UIDAI, the regional office, ”the government said in its response.
He also criticized the article for commenting that India’s vaccination program against Covid-19, launched in January, is facing the obstacles of the digital divide and literacy and largely leaving people out. poor and illiterate at first, as slots for vaccines could only be booked on the WIN Co-Portal – in English – until June, when the Center allowed one-off visits and bookings to vaccination centers .
Calling it incorrect, the government said besides English and Hindi, 10 regional language options are available on the Co-WIN platform, including Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada. , Marathi, Malayalam, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.
The government further stated that “online registration and prior appointment are not required to benefit from immunization services.” He also pointed out that in addition to online registration and appointments, Co-WIN offers several modes of registration and vaccination of beneficiaries, including assisted registration through common service centers, registration assisted via the 1075 helpline, on-site or walk-in check-in and vaccination for people. belonging to facilitated cohorts such as people who do not have access to the Internet or smartphones.
“The vaccinators who operate the vaccination session make the registrations on the spot. The recipient is not required to use the Co-WIN digital interface in such cases, ”the Government said in the reply.
Emphasizing the pace of India’s vaccination against Covid-19, the government said the country has administered the highest number of doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in the world. “As of the morning of October 19, India administered over 99 crore of Covid vaccine doses and is likely to hit 100 crore or one billion doses shortly,” the reply said.
According to the data available on Our World in Data, the United States follows India with more than 40 crore (400 million) of vaccinations against Covid, and Brazil has administered 25.6 crore (256 million) of doses of Covid vaccine, “he added.
The government said that in the average pace of daily vaccination against Covid-19, India is again at the top of the rankings with more than 4-6 million daily doses (7-day moving average). “Countries like the United States, France, United Kingdom, Brazil and Russia all have less than 1 to 2 million daily doses (7-day moving average),” the reply said.
The Economist article attributed to surveys by Lokniti-CSDS, a polling group, shows that four-fifths of Indian families use public food supply programs, of which 28% say they have been denied unpaid rations. given time due to issues with Aadhaar. “Biometric identification has helped fight theft and corruption, but less so than non-technological reforms of the food system,” one reads an excerpt from the story.
The article misses some important facts about food security and the role of technology in ensuring the legitimate targeting of beneficiaries in India under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the reply asserted in response.
“As part of the technology-driven reforms of the TPDS, significant progress has been made at the national level over the past 6-7 years. These reforms include, among others, the digitization of all ration card data (100% achieved in all states / territories of the Union), the seeding of Aadhaar (> 90% at national level), the installation of electronic point-of-sale (ePoS) devices at FPS for transparent distribution (~ 93% nationwide), portability of ration cards under the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) plan (activated in 34 states / territories of the ‘Union), etc. », Wrote the government in the reply.