In order to issue unique identity cards to citizens, the Unique Identification Authority of India TJIDAI) constituted under the Chairmanship of Nandan Nilekani, h is started collecting demographic and biometric data. The UIDAI is collecting two sets of information on an individual resident of India. First is the demographic information like his or her name, date of birth, sex, age, address, father’s, mother’s or guardian’s name, etc. which is very simple information. The second is the biometric information for the purpose of uniqueness, and that is all the ten finger prints, the face and the iris of both the eyes.
The Unique Identity (UID) cards would be given to every individual above 15 years, including NRIs and foreigners. The Authority aims to release around 600 million unique identity cards within a span of four to five years. To ensure that the date collected remains confidential, the Government is in the process of drafting a law governing the functioning of the project.
In 2002, the A.B. Vajpayee led NDA government had initiated a Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) project to create a national ID for every Indian citizen with the objective of increasing national security, managing citizen identity and facilitating e-governance. The UPA government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh continued with the project with its importance being underscored by President Abdul Kalam in his 2006 Independence Day eve address to the nation. Subsequently, a National Authority for Unique Identity (NAUID) was set up under the umbrella of the Planning Commission and the MNIC project was integrated with the NAUID project.
The necessity for a centrally issued ID was accentuated by the growing problems of illegal immigrants in various parts of the country. The events of 26 November in Mumbai hastened the set up of NAUID. The body was set up on 28 January 2009 with an allocation of ? 100 crore. On 25 June 2009, the Manmohan Singh government approved creation, of a position of Chairperson of UID Authority of India in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister. Nandan Nilekani, who has rich experience of creating and leading one of India’s favourite home grown technology organisations, Infosys, was appointed to this position.
In the initial phase, the project is expected to cover nine States and four Union Territories. The UID will be issued to people living in the coastal villages of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. The Union Territories of Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Andaman & Nicobar Islands shall also be covered in the first phase.
The ID is expected to serve as a unifying document to identify the citizens of India. It will obviate the need for multiple documentary proofs and facilitate easy verification. It will also facilitate easy availing of government or private services, help welfare programmes reach intended beneficiaries, and serve as basis for e-governance services. The UIDAI proposes to collect the data through various agencies of the Central and the State Governments and others who, in normal course of their activities, interact with the residents. These entities are described as Registrars of the UIDAI. Examples of such Registrars at the State level
are the Departments of Rural Development (for MNREGA) and Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs (for PDS). At the central level these entities could be Banks, LIC and Oil Marketing Companies.
The UIDAI shall work closely with the National Population Register proposed to be created by the Home Ministry through the Registrar General of the Census of India concurrently with the census 2011 in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Citizenship Act. The UIDAI will be responsible for creating and maintaining the core database and to lay down all necessary procedures for issuance and usage of UID including arrangements for collection, validation and authentication of information, proper security of data, rules for sharing and access to information, safeguards to ensure adequate protection of privacy and all aspects related to all of these issues.
An advantage of having a smart Identification Card for every Indian is that every citizen of the country will be accounted. It will also be a first step in rooting out the threat of external terrorism in India as the lack of a unique identification has made it possible for terrorists to forge various documents and live in various identities. It is expected that the issue of unique identity cards will make it easy to ensure whether a person is truly a citizen of India or has been in India as a terrorist.
The provision of a unique identity number and card to all the people of India will also be the first step towards the provision of social security to all the people of India. It will also be able to help in the prevention of various kinds of frauds committed by people. It will also be easy for the government to identify the people who need social security and also other welfare schemes.
The project is very massive project with the Government spending about ? 150,000 crore and it could bring a great change in the Indian IT infrastructure. However, the effectiveness and advantages of this system will depend fully on the provision and norms of the data to be stored in the card. There can also be some potential privacy fallouts of this project, not the least of which is triggered by the Government’s official plan to link the databases together. The UID project is primarily aimed at ensuring inclusive growth by c providing a form of identity to those who do not have any identity.
It seeks to provide UID numbers to the marginalized sections of society e and thus would strengthen equity. Nowhere in the world has such a F project on such a large scale ever been implemented. The success of the project would be a classic example of innovation and transparency in governance.