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Government to overhaul Aadhaar Linking process with DBT Accounts . Pauses it temporarily

Government has settled on a plan to draw away from the process which is now followed by the banks for mapping Aadhaar – linked bank accounts to subsidy payments. For the time being it has also drew a stand on the provision of overwriting existing subsidy – linked bank accounts with freshly mapped Aadhaar accounts.

This halt has been decided on the last meeting which took place at the cabinet secretariat where banks were directed to halt the current process for minimum 10 days which started on Monday until their core banking software was amended to adopt the new system. Under the current system, the customers who are linking their bank accounts with Aadhaar meant automatically mapping them to the Aadhaar payment bridge hosted by National Payments Corporations of India.

This overhauling step has been taken by the government after allegations came for Bharti Airtel for using the e – KYC (Know your customer) based SIM verification process to open payment bank accounts of its subscribers without their approbation and that’s why UIDAI has decided to put a hold on Bharti Airtel and Airtel Payment Bank from conducting Aadhaar based SIM verification of mobile customers using e – KYC process as well as e – KYC payment bank clients…Read more

These were then alleged to have been mapped as the accounts to which subsidy payments would be directed without their “informed consent”.  And as a consequence UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) obstructed Bharti Airtel and its payments from using Aadhaar linking for mobile verification or opening new accounts.

In this matter, one of the DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) said 

We reviewed the entire system when the Airtel issue cropped up and we have decided that overwriting should be replaced to make it more restrictive

And now in the mapping process, another layer will be added, so that banks overwriting an already Aadhaar – linked subsidy account will have to check which one will receive such payments.

In past two months, the Airtel Payment bank accounts have received the cooking gas subsidy of 4.7 million customers which has mount up to around Rs. 167 crore. A UIDAI Official says

We started to receive a lot of complaints since people were not aware that their subsidy was being directed to new accounts and they assumed the government had stopped their welfare payments

Another DBT official said 

we believe that it will stem some of the over-enthusiasm by companies to make their own accounts as primary accounts for receiving government subsidy without the explicit consent of the customer. Now this automatic route will not be possible unless the customer explicitly asks for the subsidy account to be changed.

This decision has been taken by deciding mutually with all the stakeholders who includes National Payments Corporation of India that customers’ “informed consent” was needed, said by the Finance Ministry official.

Who also added that “norms will soon be worked out IBA (Indian Banks Association) on this”. The government has also directed the banks to amend their software through IBA. And there should be no overwriting until any additional feature is launched. And they have also instructed that the new system should be ready in the next 10 days.

IBA has also decided to sit for a meeting probably next week with banks on a new form that will list out the existing Aadhaar – linked bank accounts of customers, asking them which one is for subsidies, said IBA CEO VG Kannan. Notice was also issued to Airtel on September 18 regarding the matter.

The particular action of Bharti Airtel or Airtel bank accounts is in direct contradictions with Aadhaar Act 2016 which mandates obtaining consent from the subscriber explicitly. And breach of the privacy of this section will result of penalty of Rs 1 lakh per day and termination of authentication user agreements.

And after the notice was issued to the service provider, they have responded by saying that

we have amended our process and the opening of a bank account is completely de – linked from the process of re – verification of mobile connection

However, this response was not convincing enough for the UIDAI. Hence they have issued another notice to the service provider on November 24 as the authority responsible for regulating Aadhaar, kept receiving similar complaints from customers.

UIDAI has also checked the Airtel mobile app, where it found that when the app is opened, along with a welcome message, a pre – ticked consent box in no time flashed on the screen which reads

upgrade or create my Airtel Payment Bank wallet using existing Airtel mobile KYC
. Which proves the disregard and non – adherence to Aadhaar Act and Regulation.

In regard to this matter, DBT official has said that

Financial companies had to make the distinction between seeding and mapping, but they didn’t do that, so, we had to change the system

UIDAI has also decided to increase monitoring of the system since many new financial services firms have come into the fray recently and aggressively reaching out to customers for new accounts and their services.

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