Thursday, March 17, 2011


By Robin Hicks | 19 October 2010

Ram Sewak Sharma, Director General of the Unique Identification Authority of India, has said that the biggest identity project ever attempted will see 100 million Indian residents given a unique ID by 2011.

The project, which has been estimated to cost between US$6 billion and US$33 billion, aims to eliminate fraud from subsidies on programmes, make elections fairer, curb illegal immigration, and fight terrorism, by giving all Indian residents aged 18 and above a unique identification number.

Sharma (pictured), talking at the FutureGov Summit in Kota Kinabalu, said that he plans for half of the country’s residents – around 600 million people – to have an ID number by 2014.

The UIDAI has an annual budget of Rp 3000 crore (US$675 million) with which to execute the first phase of the project. But the importance of the initiative means that it would receive political support no matter what the cost, said Sharma.

The main aim of the project is to deliver the right government services to the right people, particularly the disadvantaged, said Sharma. “A big problem is the non-transferability of government benefits, and the safe e-transfer of accounts.”

Around 10 per cent of government subsidies – roughly $50 billion a year - does not reach the intended targets in India. This is ‘a ‘conservative estimate’, Sharma noted.

“India has the largest number of poor and illiterate people in the world,” Sharma told FutureGov. “320 million people in India do not have an official identity, and so are unable to prove who they are. We want to change that.”

Currently, Indian citizens may have up to 20 forms of identity - birth certificates, driving licences and ration cards - all of which can be easily forged.