Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said the unique identification number Aadhaar issued to residents is a tool of empowerment, especially for migrant workers, the homeless and the oppressed.
"I have no doubt that in course of time, even critics of Aadhaar will realise that Aadhaar is a tool of empowerment," Chidambaram said in his budgetary speech in New Delhi.
"Who needs Aadhaar? It is those who are at the bottom of the pyramid, the poor, the migrant workers, the homeless, and the oppressed who need Aadhaar, and we will ensure that they get Aadhaar," he said.
Last year, the government faced flak after making Aadhaar mandatory for its ambitious programme of transferring cooking gas subsidy directly to beneficiaries in certain districts.
The apex court observed that the government could not deny benefits to those who did not have not Aadhaar numbers.
Later, the scheme was put on hold.
A sum of Rs 3,370 crore (Rs 33.7 billion) has been transferred to 2.1 crore (21 million) Liquefied petroleum gas (cooking gas) beneficiaries.
The scheme has been put on hold for the time being pending resolution of some difficulties that have been pointed out, Chidambaram said.
According to the minister, money is transferred to beneficiaries under 27 schemes, including the National Social Assistance Programme.
A total of 54,20,114 transactions have been put through until January 31, and Rs 628 crore (Rs 6.28 billion) has been transferred.
"The government is fully committed to Aadhaar, under which 57 crore (570 million) unique numbers have been issued so far and to opening bank accounts for all Aadhaar holders in order to promote financial inclusion," he said.
At present, the Unique Identification Authority of India, which is responsible for issuing Aadhaar numbers to residents, is enrolling people in 22 states and Union Territories.
Earlier this month, the Union Cabinet allowed UIDAI to start enrolments in four more states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.