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UIDAI's move to drop CSC pact for Aadhaar services sparks job loss fears

Kiran Rathee/New Delhi 15 Feb 18 | 05:45 AM

There are around 60,000 gram panchayats that don’t have a CSC at present

The Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI’s) decision to not renew its agreement with common service centres (CSCs) for Aadhaar-related services could possibly hit thousands of jobs and investments worth millions.

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More than 50,000 jobs could be at risk as Aadhaar enrolment and updation services contribute significantly to CSC earnings, according to officials close to the development. On average, a centre employs three to four persons. And there are around 280,000 CSCs across the country. Estimates suggest around 12,000 CSCs have been involved in Aadhaar enrolment and around 45,000 in updation work. While earlier over 27,000 CSCs were engaged in Aadhaar-related work, the government subsequently decided that enrolment centres must operate only from government premises and some 12,000 CSCs opted for it. 

With Aadhaar services taken away, many CSC owners have now asked their staff to leave as the volume of work has reduced. 

In fact, village-level entrepreneurs (VLEs) who run these centres are upset. Business Standard spoke to many of them to assess the situation. Alok, who runs a CSC in Amroha district of Uttar Pradesh, said his Aadhaar ID to undertake enrolment and updation had been lying inactive for the past 15-20 days. He said for starting Aadhaar services, he took a loan to invest over Rs 100,000 for buying hardware and a laptop. He was earning between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 a month doing Aadhaar enrolment and updation work. “About 25 to 30 people come daily to our centre for Aadhaar-related work, but we are not able to provide services as my ID is lying inactive," he said.

A VLE has to invest around Rs 150,000 to put in machines, including computers and iris and fingerprint scanners, for providing Aadhaar services.

Pradeep Sharma, another VLE from Morena district in Madhya Pradesh, said he was running losses to the tune of Rs 50,000-Rs 70,000 a month because of non-availability of Aadhaar work. Sharma, who has asked two of his employees to leave, said his centre was doing Aadhaar-related work since May 2013. His centre itself has done more than 150,000 enrolments. “Earlier, we used to do over 50-70 enrolments every day… We believe the UIDAI no longer requires us because most of the enrolments have been done now," said Sharma, whose Aadhaar ID, too, has been lying dormant since January.

On being told that the UIDAI has not renewed CSCs’ agreement because of a number of complaints of corruption and enrolment process violations linked to the centres, Sharma said everybody should not be penalised for a mistake. Sharma claimed he was rewarded for excellence in work. He recalled meeting Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at a CSC conference some time ago.

In fact, Prasad has often projected CSCs as job enablers across the country. According to the minister, about 1 million people are employed in CSCs and this number could go up to 10 million in the coming years. Given the immense potential of the service, it was decided recently that every gram panchayat should have a CSC. 

According to Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, chief executive officer of CSC E-Governance Services India, there are around 60,000 gram panchayats that do not have a CSC at present. However, by next month, all panchayats will be provided with a CSC. The government had identified locations and by next month, these new CSCs would be functional, he added. 

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