NEW DELHI: The government on Monday launched an Aadhaar-based digital life certificate for pensioners, a move that could eventually benefit over one crore pensioners.

The proposed digital certification will do away with the requirement of a pensioner to submit a physical life certificate in November each year, in order to ensure the continuity of pension being credited into his or her account. While the system is in its early stage, it is bound to ease life for pensioners once implemented.

The department of electronics and information has developed a software application that will enable the recording of a pensioner’s Aadhaar number and biometric details from his mobile device or computer, by plugging in a biometric reading device.

Key details of the pensioner, including date, time and biometric information will be uploaded to a central database on real-time basis, ultimately enabling the pension disbursing agency to access a digital life certificate. This will conclusively establish that the pensioner was alive at the time of authentication.

The software application system will be made available to pensioners and other stakeholders on a large scale at no extra cost. It can be operated on a personal computer or a smartphone, along with an inexpensive biometric reading device.

This facility will also be made available at common service centres being operated under the national e-governance plan, for the benefit of pensioners residing in remote and inaccessible areas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched ‘Jeevan Pramaan’, said after the push towards self-certification, the digital life certificate was another enabling mechanism which would benefit the common citizen.

The government has scrapped the previous practice of getting documents verified by gazetted officers and pushed for self-certification in a number of cases in a move to help citizens access public services in a transparent and time-bound manner.

The earlier requirement entailed that a pensioner either personally present himself or herself before the pension disbursing agency, or submit a life certificate issued by authorities specified by the Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO).

Every November, pensioners have to rush to the pension disbursing office or banks to get their life certificate verified and attested by gazetted officials and bank employees. While banks have a provision of sending staff to issue life certificate for very old and disabled pensioners, the practice sometime leads to delays and harassment.

Currently, 50 lakh individuals draw pension from the central government alone. A similar number draw pension from state and Union Territory governments. Several state-run companies also provide pension benefits and over 25 lakh retired personnel draw pension from the armed forces.

The Aadhaar-based digital life certificate will go a long way in reducing hardship which so many senior citizens have to go through to produce a life certificate every year, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said on Monday.

Times View

The idea of making pensioners free of the obligation of proving they are alive by registering their physical presence at bank branches once a year is welcome and long overdue. It was a truly inhuman requirement that forced old people, many of them rendered immobile by the ravages of time, to go through an ordeal to ensure their pension kept coming. In an e-enabled world, physically marking presence should really not be needed and there are surely many better ways of verifying that the person claiming the pension is actually alive.

Source: Times of India