Headed by Nandan Nilekani, the Unique Identity (UID) project is one of the most ambitious projects of the UPA government. The UID project is a step towards assign an unique number to each individual in the country that would remain a permanent identifier right from birth to death of the individual. The UID would dispose the need for a person to produce multiple documentary proofs of his identity for availing of any government service or private services like opening of a bank account.
This would end needless harassment that people face for availing of basic government services like issuance of passports, driving licences and electoral identity cards. Backed by intensive use of technology, it would greatly facilitate easy verification of a person’s identity and enable a single communication to trigger address changes in all relevant agencies records. It would also serve as the basis for many e-Governance services incorporating online verification of a person’s identity.
This project is of course the complex and high risk one. The largest database (in the United States) of this kind is of 120 million people. We are talking about 1.2 billion people.
Key points of UID project:
1. The unique identification number would ensure that any lacuna in these schemes is removed so that the benefits do not reach those they are not meant for. Also, the UID programme will provide an identity card to every citizen to establish citizenship and address security concerns.
2. The authority will identify the targeted groups for various UPA government’s various flagship programmes. It will work in close coordination with Home Ministry’s National Population Register through the Registrar General of the Census, in accordance with the Indian Citizenship Act. The flagship schemes of the UPA include the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, National Rural Health Mission and Bharat Nirman.
3. According to Ambika Soni, information and broadcasting minister, “The authority shall have the responsibilities to lay down plans and policies to implement the Unique Identification Scheme (UID), shall own and operate the Unique Identification Number database and be responsible for its updation and maintenance on an ongoing basis.”
4. The identity cards proposed will be smart cards which will carry information of each and every individual, his/her finger biometrics as well as a photograph. A unique National Identity Number will be assigned to each individual including those below 18 years of age. The government will spend around $6 billion on developing smart cards apart from a mammoth citizen database. (I am not sure about this point, as Nandan Nilkeni in a recent interview in NDTV said that this project will not give out any kind of cards to citizens but just unique number. somebody update me which is right)
5. Karnataka has reportedly been chosen as the pilot state to implement the project. The National Authority for Unique Identity (NAUI), set up under the Planning Commission, has asked the state to implement the programme on a small scale to co-ordinate data on people, from different agencies. The programme in Karnataka is being carried out by the Department of e-governance, which will be identifying districts, both urban and rural, to gather the databases and check their compatibility. Recently GOA chief minister has requested Nandan Nilkeni to include his state in the pilot project.
6. The broad idea is to get all the births, deaths, marriages, passport data, bank account data, ration card data into one database. This will help all these offices to just tap into the central database as and when required and update their accounts. The government is reportedly looking at a three-year term to complete the entire programme.
7. The national ID card project is expected to provide an impetus to the domestic demand for information technology products and solutions, and willhelp companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro gain more business at a time when their top export markets of US and Europe are under recession.