By: The Economist

December 7, 2020

WHEN MILLIONS of migrant workers were forced by India’s sudden covid lockdown to return to their villages from the cities where they worked, many feared destitution. But Aadhaar, the country’s pioneering biometric ID system, came to the rescue. Under an income scheme for farmers launched in 2014 that would have been impossible without Aadhaar, $1.5bn was transferred digitally and at speed into the bank accounts of 30m people, with little waste or fraud and almost no distribution cost.

Because 1bn accounts are linked to people’s Aadhaar identity numbers, India has been able to channel help to where it has been most needed with remarkable efficiency. Contrast that with America, where 90m paper cheques were laboriously sent through the mail, accompanied by a signed letter from President Donald Trump.