Sunday, March 6, 2011

217 - Nothing ‘unique’ about Aadhaar any more - Money Life Article

September 24, 2010 06:03 PM
Moneylife Digital Team

A proposal approved by the cabinet will constitute a statutory authority to be called the National Identification Authority of India. It’s the new name for UIDAI.

The Union Cabinet on Friday approved a proposal to introduce the National Identification Authority of India (NIAI) Bill 2010 in Parliament.

The bill proposes to constitute a statutory authority to be called the National Identification Authority of India and lay down the powers and functions of the Authority, the framework for issuing unique identification (UID) numbers (Aadhaar numbers), major penalties and other related matters through an Act of Parliament. The proposal by the government is not new, apart from a new name for the controversial Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

"After the bill is passed in Parliament, the name UIDAI would be changed to NIAI. The rest of the functioning and job of the authority would remain the same," said Awadhesh Kumar Pandey, assistant director general for media, UIDAI.

According to a statement released by the government, the setting up will involve an expenditure of Rs3023.01 crore, which includes project components for issue of UID numbers (called Aadhaar numbers) by March 2011, and recurring establishment costs for the entire project phase, over five years ending March 2014.

The statement tries to provide more information about Aadhaar, but creates more confusion. It says, "The UID project is primarily aimed at ensuing inclusive growth, by providing a form of identity to those who do not have any identity." Does this mean that those who have an identity will not get the Aadhaar numbers? In addition, what about the inclusive growth of other people who already have some kind of identification? There are hardly any answers to these questions.

The statement also talks about strengthening of equity among marginalised sections of society. It is not clear how the Aadhaar numbers would be able to do this. The government claims that apart from providing an identity, the Aadhaar numbers would enable better delivery of services and effective governance. Would this imply that someone from Tembhali village in north Maharashtra's Nandurbar district will automatically receive food under the public distribution system (PDS), when the middlemen have looted the food before it can even reach the shop?

What's more serious is that the government does not say anywhere that the Aadhaar numbers will be issued to the citizens of India. Instead, it mentions that the Aadhaar numbers will be issued to "individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals". This means that immigrants from neighbouring countries, residing illegally in India, would be able to procure such numbers too, akin to the ration card (PDS Card), and become citizens of the country.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the ambitious UID project at Tembhali village in north Maharashtra's Nandurbar district this month-end. According to a report from the Press Trust of India, the 12-digit Aadhaar number will be mandatory for all government schemes and will serve as a unique identification number for citizens.

To get the number, citizens are required to produce any of 29 listed documents as proof of domicile. If no document is produced, the district collector in rural areas and municipal commissioners in the urban areas will be authorised to issue an identity certificate to the individual.