While Indians are asked for a range of documents by a range of agencies – from government offices to banks, schools, colleges, electricity and phone companies and the police, a new government scheme is likely to make life easier for Indian residents, though also opening doors for potential corruption and fraud.
The UID Number or Aadhar, is a new initiative by the government of India, introduced under the captaincy of Nandan Nilekani, a renowned business leader.
Indian Government has introduced the UID card or Aadhaar, which is a 12-digit unique number for an Indian national applying for the UID card. The issuing authority, UID Authority of India, will create a central database of these numbers and link to it basic demographics and biometric information such as photograph, 10 fingerprints and iris of each individual.
Aadhaar can be verified online, and is expected to remove duplicate and fake identities in government and private databases.
The Authority claims that the number will be independent of any classification based on caste, creed, religion and geography.
The authority expects Aadhaar to be recognised and accepted across the country and across all service providers over time and become the basic, universal identity infrastructure over which agencies across the country can build their identity-based applications.
Such agencies may include state governments, state Public Sector Units (PSUs), banks, telecom companies, etc.
Once residents enrol for Aadhaar, service providers will no longer face the problem of performing repeated Know Your Customer (KYC) checks before providing services. Residents would also be spared the trouble of repeatedly proving identity through documents each time they wish to access services such as obtaining a bank account, passport, or driving license etc.
By providing a clear proof of identity, Aadhaar will empower poor and underprivileged residents in accessing services such as the formal banking system and give them the opportunity to easily avail various other services provided by the Government and the private sector. The centralised technology infrastructure of the UIDAI will enable ‘anytime, anywhere, anyhow’ authentication.
Aadhaar will thus give migrants mobility of identity. Aadhaar authentication can be done both offline and online, online authentication through a cell phone or land line connection will allow residents to verify their identity remotely. Remotely, online Aadhaar-linked identity verification will give poor and rural residents the same flexibility that urban non-poor residents presently have in verifying their identity and accessing services such as banking and retail.
Aadhaar will also demand proper verification prior to enrolment, while ensuring inclusion. Existing identity databases in India are fraught with problems of fraud and duplicate or ghost beneficiaries.
Aadhaar is completely voluntary, just like passport, and anyone living in India, irrespective of their nationality, can obtain Aaadhar. This means, NRIs can apply for Aadhaar.
However, in a highly corrupt system, there is a high risk of data theft, and misuse of personal information. Also, even as the scheme is being implemented, the cases of fraudulent agencies issuing UID cards have been reported.
A government agency with access to identification and personal details of its residents is likely to be prime target of corruption and data theft.
Visit UID Authority of India website for details of the scheme.