The UID project has both 'security' and 'developmental' dimensions. The former leads to an invasive state; the latter leaves us with a retreating state.

Is identity the "missing link" in India's efforts to rise as an "inclusive" economic superpower? Can an identity-linked and technology-based solution change the face of governance in India? Given the euphoria around the Unique Identification (UID) project, one is tempted to believe so. However, a careful look at the project would show that the euphoria is just hyperbole; only the politically naïve can afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of this Orwellian project.

One can summarise the criticisms of the UID project under four heads. First, the project would necessarily entail the violation of privacy and civil liberties of people. Second, it remains unclear whether biometric technology — the cornerstone of the project – is capable of the gigantic task of de-duplication. The Unique Identification Authority of India's (UIDAI) "Biometrics Standards Committee" has noted that retaining biometric efficiency for a database of more than one billion persons "has not been adequately analysed" and the problem of fingerprint quality in India "has not been studied in depth". Third, there has been no cost-benefit analysis or feasibility report for the project till now. Finally, the purported benefits of the project in the social sector, such as in the Public Distribution System (PDS), are largely illusive. The problem of duplicate ration cards is often hugely exaggerated. Even so, some States have largely eliminated duplicate ration cards using "lower" technologies like hologram-enabled ration cards.

In this larger context, the UID project has two distinct political dimensions. The first dimension is that the project is fundamentally linked to "national security" concerns rather than "developmental" concerns. In fact, the marketing team of the UIDAI has always been on an overdrive to hush up the security angle, and play up the developmental angle, to render it more appealing.

The first phase of today's UID project was initiated in 1999 by the NDA government in the wake of the Kargil War. Following the reports of the "Kargil Review Committee" in 2000, and a Group of Ministers in 2001, the NDA government decided to compulsorily register all citizens into a "National Population Register" (NPR) and issue a Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) to each citizen. To ease this process, clauses related to individual privacy in the Citizenship Act of 1955 were weakened through an amendment in 2003. In sum, the ground work for a national ID project was completed by 2003 itself.

The parallels between the UPA's UID and the NDA's MNIC are too evident to be missed, even as the UPA sells UID as a purely "developmental" initiative. The former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, A.K. Doval, almost gave it away recently, when he said that UID, originally, "was intended to wash out the aliens and unauthorised people. But the focus appears to be shifting. Now, it is being projected as more development-oriented, lest it ruffle any feathers".

The potential of the project to unleash a security frenzy is the reason why privacy concerns have to be taken seriously. The government and the UIDAI have made it appear as if the purported, and unsubstantiated, benefits of "good governance" from the project eclipse the concerns regarding privacy and civil liberties. This is where the problem lies. A foundational understanding in the study of individual freedoms, pioneered by scholars like Amartya Sen, is that consequence-independent absolute rights are rather hard to defend. Hence, the demand to trade-off one freedom for another (here, the "invasive loss" of privacy for "development") is an untenable demand. Each freedom, independently, has an instrumental value, and the loss of one freedom undermines the individual's overall capability to expand up on other freedoms. No wonder then that Sen himself has voiced the privacy concern regarding the UID project.

There is a related concern: police and security forces, if allowed access to the biometric database, could extensively use it for regular surveillance and investigative purposes, leading to a number of human rights violations. As Amartya Sen has argued elsewhere, forced disclosure and loss of privacy always entailed "the social costs of the associated programmes of investigation and policing". According to him, "some of these investigations can be particularly nasty, treating each applicant as a potential criminal."

The second dimension of the UID project is the following: it would qualitatively restructure the role of the state in the social sector. Contrary to claims, the UID project is not an instrument to expand India's social security system, for whatever it is worth. Instead, the aim is to keep benefits restricted to the so-called "targeted" sections, ensure targeting with precision and thereby, limit the government's expenditure commitments. None other than the Prime Minister has made this amply clear. Addressing the National Development Council (NDC) on July 24, 2010, he noted: "to reduce our fiscal deficit in the coming years, … we must [be] … reducing the scale of untargeted subsidies. The operationalisation of the Unique Identification Number Scheme … provides an opportunity to target subsidies effectively."

The UIDAI claims that UID would help the government shift from a number of indirect benefits into direct benefits. In reality, such a shift would represent the opposite: a transformation of the role of the state from a direct provider to an indirect provider. For the UIDAI, the UID is a tool of empowerment. In reality, the UID would be an alibi for the state to leave the citizen unmarked in the market for social services. Nowhere is the illustration more telling than in the case of the PDS.

Let me state the argument upfront. The UID project is part of a larger effort to dismantle the PDS in India. The aim is to ensure a back-door entry of food stamps in the place of PDS, and later graduate it to a cash transfer scheme, thereby completing the state's withdrawal from the sphere of food procurement and distribution.

According to the UIDAI, the most important benefit from the UID could be that you could have a "portable" PDS. In other words, you could have a system where you (say, a migrant worker) could buy your PDS quota from anywhere in India. The claim, of course, has a deceptive appeal. One would have to dig deeper to grasp the real intent.

If we take the present fair price shop (FPS) system, each FPS has a specified number of households registered to it. The FPS stores grains only for the registered households. The FPS owner would not know how many migrants, and for what periods, would come in and demand their quota. Hence, for lack of stock, he would turn away migrant workers who demand grains. Hence, the FPS system isincompatible with the UID-linked portability of PDS. There is only one way out: do away with the FPS system, accredit grocery shops to sell grains, allow them to compete with each other and allow the shop owners to get the subsidy reimbursed. This is precisely what food stamps are all about; no FPS, you get food stamps worth an amount, go to any shop and buy grains (on why food stamps are deeply problematic, see Madhura Swaminathan, "Targeted Food Stamps", The Hindu, August 3, 2004).

What is interesting is that everyone, except those enamoured by the UID glitter, appears to know this. On its part, UIDAI officially accepts that food stamps become easier to implement with the UID. So does the Planning Commission, which sees the UID as the fulcrum around which its plans to "reform" the PDS revolve. It turns out that an opposition to the dismantling of PDS, and to food stamps, also involves an opposition to the UID.

On his part, Nandan Nilekani has been showcasing his extraordinarily poor understanding of India's developmental priorities. According to him, "in the Indira years, the slogan was garibi hatao. Then it was roti, kapda, makaan. In the last few years, it was bijli, sadak, pani." However, these slogans are "passé"; the in-thing is the slogan "UID number, bank account, mobile phone." Such an inverted world view, totally divorced from the grim realities of poverty, has prompted critics to call AADHAAR as just NIRAADHAAR!

In conclusion, the UID project is marked by both "security" and "developmental" dimensions. The former leads to an invasive state; the latter leaves us with a retreating state. Either way, the "citizen" is worse off.

(R. Ramakumar is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.)

Keywords: Unique IdentificationUID

Unique Identification Authority of India

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
भारतीय विशिष्ट पहचान प्राधिकरण
Aadhaar Logo.svg
UIDAI (Aadhaar UIDAI new logo)
Agency overview
FormedFebruary 2009
JurisdictionGovernment of India (Union Government)
HeadquartersNew Delhi
Annual budgetINR3,000 crore (US$546 million) (2010)
Agency executivesNandan NilekaniChairman
Ram Sewak Sharma, Director General and Mission Director

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) (Hindi: भारतीय विशिष्ट पहचान प्राधिकरण), is an agency of the Government of India responsible for implementing theAADHAAR scheme, a unique identification project. It was established in February 2009, and will own and operate the Unique Identification Number database.[1] The authority aims to provide a unique id number to all Indians, but not smart cards.[2]The authority will maintain a database of residents containing biometric and other data.[3]

The agency is headed by a chairman, who holds a cabinet rank. The UIDAI is part of the Planning Commission of India.[1][4] Nandan Nilekani, former co-chairman ofInfosys Technologies, was appointed as the first Chairman of the authority in June 2009.[5] Ram Sewak Sharma, an IAS Officer of Jharkhand Government is the Director General and Mission Director of the Authority.[6]



[edit]Salient features of AADHAAR

Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique number which the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will issue for all residents in India (on a voluntary basis). The number will be stored in a centralized database and linked to the basic demographics and biometric information – photograph, ten fingerprints and iris – of each individual. It is easily verifiable in an online, cost-effective way. It is unique and robust enough to eliminate the large number of duplicate and fake identities in government and private databases. The random number generated will be devoid of any classification based on caste, creed, religion and geography.[7]

[edit]Pre Launch

Before being provided with a governmental infrastructure, a core development team was composed largely of non-resident Indians returning to India solely for this project. The Wall Street Journal called this Nilekani's Dream Team.[8] The core team included Srikanth Nadhamuni, Pramod Varma, Wyly Wade, Salil Prabhakar, amongst many other people from both the public and private sectors. Most of the tech gurus that designed the unique ID system were of Indian-origin, and volunteered to help the effort without pay. This initial team provided, the alpha versions of the software, the strategy and ran the proof of concepts in the field.


UIDAI launched AADHAAR program in the tribal village, Tembhli, in Shahada,[9][10] NandurbarMaharashtra on 29 September 2010. The program was inaugurated by Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.[11] The first resident to receive an AADHAAR was Ranjana Sonawane of Tembhli village.[12]

[edit]Coverage, goals and logistics

collecting finger prints for Aadhar
collecting images of iris
Taking photos

It is believed that Unique National IDs will help address the rigged state elections and widespread embezzlement that affects subsidies and poverty alleviation programs such asNREGA.[13] Addressing illegal immigration into India and terrorist threats is another goal of the program.[14] In January 2012, the government of India reiterated the goal of the UID project, "... is primarily aimed at ensuring inclusive growth by 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 and thus would strengthen equity. Apart from providing identity, the UID will enable better delivery of services and effective governance."[15] National Population Registry (NPR) project, a distinctly separate initiative by the Home Ministry, is meant to issue national identity cards to enhance national security.[16]

Most reports suggest that the plan is for each Indian resident to have a unique identification number with associated identifying biometric data and photographs by 2011.[17] However, other reports claim that obtaining a unique number would be voluntary, but those that opt to stay out of the system "will find it very inconvenient: they will not have access to facilities that require you to cite your ID number."[2]

Government distributed benefits are fragmented by purpose and region in India, which results in widespread bribery, denial of public services and loss of income, especially afflicting poor citizens.[18] As the unique identity database comes into existence, the various identity databases (voter ID, passports, ration cards, licenses, fishing permits, border area id cards) that already exist in India are planned to be linked to it.[2] The Authority is liaising with various national, state and local government entities to begin this process. The Union Labor Ministry has offered its verified Employment Provident Fund (EPFO) database of 42 million citizens as the first database to be integrated into the unique ID system.[19] Contrary to various previous reports, UIDAI does not use any existing databases citing problems of fraud and duplicate/ghost beneficiaries in the existing databases. Instead, it will enroll the entire population using its multi-registrar enrollment model using verification processes prescribed by the UIDAI. This will ensure that the data collected is clean right from the beginning of the program. However, much of the poor and underserved population lack identity documents and the UID may be the first form of identification they will have access to. The Authority will ensure that the Know Your Resident (KYR) standards do not become a barrier for enrolling the poor and has devised suitable procedures to ensure their inclusion without compromising the integrity of the data. The NPR is an important partner registrar in the enrollment process.[20]

UIDAI has headquarters in Delhi and a technology centre in Bangalore. It also has 8 regional offices in ChandigarhDelhiLucknow,RanchiGuwahatiMumbaiHyderabad and Bangalore.[21]


UID project is known as AADHAAR' meaning 'support' or 'foundation', and its logo is a yellow sun with a fingerprint embedded in its centre. The logo was designed by Atul Sudhakar Rao Pande.[22]

[edit]Projected costs and business opportunities

The official estimates for the project is INR18,000 crore (US$3.28 billion).[23] An independent analysis based on the actual and approved budget of UIDAI also puts the estimate at INR18,000 crore (US$3.28 billion).[24] Older estimate provided by the critics of the project to completely roll-out National IDs to all Indian residents above the age of 18 has been placed at INR150,000 crore (US$27.3 billion).[25] A different estimate puts it at US$ 6 billion.[26] A sum of INR100 crore (US$18.2 million) was approved in the 2009-2010 union budget to fund the agency for its first year of existence.[1] UID has received a huge boost with Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of Finance, allocating INR1,900 crore (US$345.8 million) to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for 2010-11. Pranab Mukherjee has allocated INR1,758 crore (US$319.96 million) for budget year 2012-13.[27] Amount approved for Phase I, II and III is INR8,962 crore (US$1.63 billion) for the period up to March, 2017.[28]

Initial estimates project that the initiative will create 100,000 new jobs in the country, and business opportunities worth INR6,500 crore (US$1.18 billion) in the first phase[17] of implementation, over three years.

[edit]Projected benefits

  1. Aadhaar will become the single source of identity verification. Residents would be spared the hassle of repeatedly providing supporting identity documents each time they wish to access services such as obtaining a bank account, passport, driving license and so on.
  2. By providing a clear proof of identity, Aadhaar will also facilitate entry for poor and underprivileged residents into the formal banking system and the opportunity to avail services provided by the government.
  3. Giving migrants mobility of identity.
  4. Financial inclusion with deeper penetration of banks, insurance and easy distribution of benefits of government schemes.[29]

[edit]Direct Benefit Transfer

Direct Benefit Transfer or DBT is an anti-poverty program launched by Government of India on 1 January 2013. This program aims to transfer subsidies directly to the people living below poverty line through Unique Identification Authority of India.


Aadhaar Enrollment began in September 2010. As of December 31, 2011, there were 36,000 active enrollment stations in thirty two states and union territories.[30] In February 2012, the enrollment reached originally approved target of 200 million. The enrollment will commence in middle of April 2012 for 400 million residents being enrolled through multi-registrar model. NPR continues to enroll in its assigned territory.[31]

The total number of AADHAARs issued as of 16-Jan-2013 is more than 26 crore (260 million). This is about 21.5% of the population of India. Ten states, which are Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jhakhand and Uttar Pradesh have crossed the 1 crore mark in terms of the number of AADHAARs issued.

Further details are available at the UIDAI portal.[32]

AADHAARs Issued (state-wise)
Rank State / Union Territory Population AADHAARs Issued  % of Population
INDIA1,210,593,422 260,117,98121.49%
1 Andhra Pradesh84,665,53351,444,301 60.76%
2Maharashtra 112,372,97244,529,19339.63%
3Kerala33,387,67720,659,922 61.88%
4Karnataka 61,130,70417,353,19128.39%
5Madhya Pradesh72,597,56516,246,419 22.38%
6Delhi 16,753,23512,612,23275.28%
7Rajasthan68,621,01212,609,390 18.38%
8Punjab 27,704,23612,212,88244.08%
9Jharkhand32,966,23811,343,567 34.41%
10Uttar Pradesh 199,581,47710,024,2675.02%
11West Bengal91,347,736 9,951,60310.89%
12 Tamil Nadu72,138,9589,050,500 12.55%
13Gujarat 60,383,6287,103,26211.76%
14Orissa41,947,3585,310,398 12.66%
15Himachal Pradesh 6,856,5094,832,48970.48%
16Haryana25,753,081 3,353,30013.02%
17 Tripura3,671,0322,939,21180.06%
18Bihar103,804,637 2,171,5252.09%
19 Goa1,457,7231,181,78181.07%
20Uttarakhand10,116,752 1,024,36110.13%
21 Puducherry1,244,464956,089 76.83%
22Chandigarh 1,054,686717,34568.02%
23Manipur2,721,756 606,14222.27%
24Sikkim 607,688481,59879.25%
25Chhattisgarh25,540,196 348,0161.36%
26Nagaland 1,980,602212,97910.75%
27Andaman and Nicobar Islands 379,944159,65342.02%
28Daman and Diu242,911132,424 54.52%
29Jammu and Kashmir 12,548,92649,9730.40%
30Lakshadweep64,429 45,29570.30%
31Dadra and Nagar Haveli 342,85329,6668.65%
32Assam31,169,272 21,1210.07%
33Mizoram 1,091,0148,4960.78%
34Others4,346,618 395,3909.10%

On 27 January 2012 The Cabinet Committee on Unique Identification Authority of India related issues (CC-UIDA1) announced that the NPR and UIDAI enrolments should proceed simultaneously. UIDAI will be allowed to enroll additional 400 million residents beyond 200 million already approved. The remaining 600 million will be enrolled by NPR and Aadhaar number of these will be issued by UIDAI.[15] On 30 January 2012 CC-UIDAI approved budget of phase III of the scheme that covers the cost creation, storage and maintenance of data and services for harnessing the uses of Aadhaar for the entire estimated population till March 2017.[33]

Sample Aadhaar Card issued in Andhra Pradesh(Details blurred)

[edit]Report of the Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance

In December 2011, Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance headed by Yashwant Sinhawhile considering the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 (that was to give legal backing for the whole exercise), termed the project as directionless and conceptualised with no clarity of purpose.[34] The committee also expressed its reservations on the technology used for the project calling it "untested, unproven, unreliable and unsafe".[35]

According to the standing committee report the scheme is riddled with serious lacunae and concerns. "The UID scheme has been conceptualized with no clarity of purpose and leaving many things to be sorted out during the course of its implementation; and is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion." The report continues "…The scheme which was initially meant for BPL families has been extended for all residents in India and to certain other persons. The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), constituted for the purpose of collating the two schemes namely, the UID and National Population Register(NPR), and to look into the methodology and specifying target for effective completion of the UID scheme, failed to take concrete decision on important issues…" More importantly the committee has observed that the UID scheme lacks clarity on even the basic purpose of issuing "aadhaar" number.

[edit]Financial Exclusion

Observation 3(f) of the standing committee reads: "The full or near full coverage of marginalized sections for issuing aadhaar numbers could not be achieved mainly owing to two reasons viz. (i) the UIDAI doesn't have the statistical data relating to them; and (ii) estimated failure of biometrics is expected to be as high as 15% due to a large chunk of population being dependent on manual labour." Even the Ministry of Planning in their written reply to the standing committee stated that "failure to enroll is a reality".

The introducer system wont be of much use. How many introducers or GOs would be there to introduce millions of slum dwellers, tribal population, or in rural India where they hardly have electricity or internet connectivity? (friendly government school teachers who rang your door bell a year ago may perhaps know some of them) If they can find some introducers, why can't some anti-social elements too can find out some others? The result would be disastrous for our national security for innumerable foreign national (including terrorists) would be enrolled in Aadhaar database with local addresses. Chances are that many more people in rural India where there is no electricity and internet connectivity will be excluded from social welfare schemes even if they acquire aadhaar number.

The committee in observation 3(d) notes: "Continuance of various existing forms of identity and the requirement of furnishing, other documents‟ for proof of address, even after issue of aadhaar number, would render the claim made by the Ministry that Aadhaar number is to be used as a general proof of identity and proof of address meaningless". UIDAI clearly says that UID is no substitutes for existing Ids and The Working Paper of the UIDAI which starts with a claim that UID will help the poor access various services ends with a caveat: "UID will only guarantee identity, not rights, benefits and entitlements"[35]

[edit]Dependency on Private Players

"The National Informatics Centre (NIC) have pointed out that the issues relating to privacy and security of UID data could be better handled by storing in a Government data centre;" . Even then the UID project is dependent on private players. The committee further notes: "9. The Committee are afraid that the scheme may end up being dependent on private agencies, despite contractual agreement made by the UIDAI with several private vendors. As a result, the beneficiaries may be forced to pay over and above the charges to be prescribed by the UIDAI for availing of benefits and services, which are now available free of cost " . UIADAI has entered into contracts with several government and non-government agencies for enrollment and data collection. The private companies include foreign companies like L1 Identity solutions (now MorphoTrust USA) and Accenture that have even ex-CIA officials on board and as staff.

[edit]National Security

The committee has expressed concern over the implications of the Project Aadhaar on national security. It said: "The Committee are unable to understand the rationale of expanding the scheme to persons who are not citizens, as this entails numerous benefits proposed by the Government" "This will, they apprehend, make even illegal immigrants entitled for an aadhaar number". The committee especially is concerned about the efficacy of introducer system on national security. As opined by many the introducer system could result in many anti-national and anti-social elements acquiring aadhaar numbers on false addresses.

[edit]Relationship with National Population Registry

UIDAI is using data collected by the Census authorities to prepare the National Population Register(NPR) for creating the UIDs. The NPR is not an exclusive database of Indian Citizens. It contains data on all residents of the country including foreigners. Therefore, issuing UIDs based on the data in the NPR would help illegal migrants get these IDs and would allow them access the government services and programs. Nationality of the individual is one of the variables being recorded during the enumeration of NPR. But the instruction to the Census personnel says:"Nationality of each person has to be asked from the respondent and recorded as declared by him". The officials have been asked to advise people to give correct nationality and that he/she can be penalized for giving false information. Such advise may not work with illegal migrants. The responsibility of proving the identity still lies on the shoulders of residents and not on UIDAI.[36][37]

[edit]Potential privacy and civil liberty issues

Some activists have expressed concerns[38] that Aadhaar has potentials for civil liberty and privacy violations,[39] especially when registrars include non-government agencies.[40] Many eminent personalities, including former Supreme Court Justice. V R Krishna Iyer, Historian Romila Thapar, Independent Law Researcher Dr. Usha Ramanathan, Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy, and Booker prize winner Arundhathi Roy have questioned the legal validity of the whole exercise. The standing committee on finance observes that: "The clearance of the Ministry of Law & Justice for issuing aadhaar numbers, pending passing the Bill by Parliament, on the ground that powers of the Executive are co-extensive with the legislative power of the Government and that the Government is not debarred from exercising its Executive power in the areas which are not regulated by the legislation does not satisfy the Committee. The Committee are constrained to point out that in the instant case, since the law making is underway with the bill being pending, any executive action is as unethical and violative of Parliament‟s prerogatives." The committee also observed that a National Data Protection Law is "a pre-requisite for any law that deals with large scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases. Itwould be difficult to deal with the issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of data bases and securing confidentiality of information etc." The UIDAI's claim that it has incorporated data protection principles within its policy and implementation framework does not satisfy the committee.

In another observation that could raise many questions on the legalities of collections of biometrics even for NPR, the committee notes that "The collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information of individuals without amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 as well as the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament".[35]

The committee deliberated at length on the civil liberty perspective of the project and considered opinions from eminent personalities in the field of law and civil rights. And speaking on the possibilities of data misuse, it notes that "The Committee are at a loss to understand as to how the UIDAI, without statutory power, could address key issues concerning their basic functioning and initiate proceedings against the defaulters and penalize them." The committee also notes that the scheme leads to ID fraud as prevalent in some countries.[35]

[edit]Cabinet and Parliamentary approval

The former chief minister of Kerala, V. S. Achuthanandan claimed in July 2011 that the program was being launched without "proper debate" in parliament.[41] Other activists have expressed similar concerns.[42] In a letter to the Prime Minister in November 2011, home minister P. Chidambaram has also expressed discomfort about the fact that the project has no cabinet clearance, and hence, may be questioned at a later date.[43]

On 17 December 2011 parliamentary standing committee on finance chaired by Yashwant Sinha rejected the proposed bill by saying: "…the Committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010…The Committee would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme.…"

This was the conclusion of Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF), which examined the Bill to convert the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) into a statutory authority. With this categorical rebuff, the SCoF dealt a body blow to the Aadhaar project, which is being implemented from September 2010 without Parliament's approval.[44]

[edit]Economic risks

The projected costs of the Aadhaar project have been quoted between US$6 billion and US$30.42 billion. These costs may not be covered by future revenue produced from the project, which is estimated at US$1.32 billion.[citation needed] The benefits arising from reduction in leakages with modest assumptions are estimated to be 52.85% as mentioned in the cost and benefit analysis done by National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.[45]

Parliaments standing Committee on Finance committee discussed at length on the financial implications of the project as evident from page 23-25 of their report. Till date Rs.3170.32 crores have been allotted for the project. More fund clearance is on the anvil. Rs. 8861 crore has been approved for Phase III of the project. There are no clear figures available on the financial burden the project could incur while some independent estimates pegs the cost as high as Rs.1,50,000crores. As was the case with UK ID project, the cost will escalate for sure. Lets quote from the report of the standing committee on finance : "(a) no committee has been constituted to study the financial implications of the UID scheme; and (b) comparative costs of the aadhaar number and various existing ID documents are also not available. The Committee also note that Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the UID Scheme has been done much later in April, 2011. The Committee thus strongly disapprove of the hasty manner in which the UID scheme has been approved. Unlike many other schemes / projects, no comprehensive feasibility study, which ought to have been done before approving such an expensive scheme, has been done involving all aspects of the UID scheme including cost-benefit analysis, comparative costs of aadhaar number and various forms of existing identity, financial implications and prevention of identity theft, for example, using hologram enabled ration card to eliminate fake and duplicate beneficiaries."

[edit]Reliability of biometric methods[46]

Using the UIDAI own data - UIDAI Model, Aadhaar is dependent on biometrics being reliable enough to guarantee that there is a one-to-one correspondence between real people and electronic identities on the CIDR (central ID repository).

In December 2010, UIDAI self-published a report on their proof of concept trial designed to test, among other things, whether biometrics are reliable enough to guarantee that every entry on the CIDR is unique. UIDAI's figures published show error rate at .01% using finger print and iris only, this low rate combined with photograph match can achieve the desired unique identification.

In December 2011, UIDAI conducted a study [1] using the enrolment of 8.4 crore (84 million) residents and obtained statistical results to measure the efficacy of use of biometrics for de-duplication of Indian population. The test was conducted on a production scale (comprising biometric data of 84 million residents in 32 States and Union Territories). The accuracy of actual recorded biometric was found to be several order higher than the accuracy achieveable by the critics.

The key results of the study are summarized below:

Efficacy of Biometrics in AADHAAR Enrolment
ItemDefinition Critics ClaimUIDAI Study[46]
Failure to EnrolPer UIDAI policy, failure to enroll in Aadhaar is not allowed. That is, Aadhaar is a right of every Indian resident and cannot be denied. 15%0%
Biometric Failure to EnrolThe resident who cannot provide both iris (e.g. severely damaged eyes) or any of the fingerprints (e.g. handicapped with both hands missing Or severely damaged fingerprints due to manual labour) cannot provide biometrics for de-duplication. They have to be manually adjudicated. 15%0.14%
False RejectionThe system de-duplicates the resident packet to ensure that the resident has not previously been given an Aadhaar number. The error by the biometric system, in case it erroneously rejects legitimate residents, is called false rejection of Aadhaar or False Positive Identification Rate (FPIR) of the biometric system. So high that system will be useless0.057%
False AcceptanceThe system performs de-duplication to ensure that the resident has not previously been given an Aadhaar number. If in case the biometric system accepts the resident as new when in reality it was actually a duplicate, the resident will end up with two Aadhaar numbers. This error by the biometric system is called false acceptance of Aadhaar or False Negative Identification Rate (FNIR). No Claim0.0352%

The study lays to rest the fear that the use of biometric technology in the Indian context would be unreliable and flawed. It has been affirmed that UIDAI's biometric capability for enrolments is ready to handle high throughput (10 lakh Aadhaars per day), accuracy (99.965% on duplication detection) and scale (database can be of 1.2 billion people). The UIDAI since issuing the first Aadhaar number on September 29, 2010 in Tembhali, Maharashtra has issued over 10 crore Aadhaar numbers as of Dec 31st 2011, making it one of the largest biometric systems in the world.

The primary design decisions that have enabled achievement of this high degree of accuracy and scale are:

  1. Combining both 10 Finger Prints and 2 Iris has greatly improved accuracy of de-duplication.
  2. The multi-ABIS solution architecture (three biometric service providers) has contributed to lowering costs, increasing throughput and fine-tuning accuracy.
  3. The combining of demographic and biometric de-duplication has further helped in eliminating trivial duplicates and increasing accuracy.
  4. The highly scalable architecture based on open components and commodity hardware has made this ramp-up possible.

The UIDAI conducted a detailed analysis of the biometric accuracy and performance based on 8.4 crore Aadhaar enrollments. This analysis has resulted in the UIDAI releasing this paper "The Role of Biometric Technology in Aadhaar Enrollment").[46]

Some of the key findings of this paper include:

  1. Since both fingerprints and irises are being captured using high quality sensors, as well as the use of 3 different biometric service providers at the UID's CIDR (Central ID Repository), high levels of accuracy are being achieved in enrolling residents.
  2. On the effectiveness of biometric technology in Indian context with large number of rural/agricultural workers, the analysis has shown that the 'Failure to Enroll' (FTE) rate of the UIDAI Biometric system is at: 0.14%. This implies that 99.86% of the population can be uniquely identified by the biometric system. Even the exceptions (0.14%) are checked manually and processed. The False Negative Identification Rate (FNIR) of the UIDAI system is computed to be as low as 0.035%. This implies that 99.965% of all duplicates submitted to the biometric de-duplication system are correctly caught by the system as duplicates.
  3. The amount of hardware processing power needed by the UIDAI system is well within the design and expectations and has not increased in a non-linear fashion.

Based on the analysis, the UIDAI confirms that the enrollment system has proven to be reliable, accurate and scalable to meet the nation's need of providing unique Aadhaar numbers to the entire population. It is asserted that the system will be able to scale to handle the entire population. The analysis resulting from such a large data set (8.4 crore enrollments) is empirically repeatable and statistically accurate.

The enrollment process includes concept of exception that allows for enrollment of a person without collectible biometric. It is meant for persons with missing fingers or eyes. The enrollment agncies have exploited this feature to enroll fictitious identies. For example, a coriander plant in rural Andhra Pradesh received its unique identification number and of course a card for itself with the photo of a mobile phone. An Aadhaar card with number : 4991 1866 5246 was issued in the name of Mr Kothimeer (Coriander), Son of Mr Palav (Biryani), Mamidikaya Vuru (Village Raw Mango), of Jambuladinne in Anantapur district. As the card displayed the photo of a mobile phone, officials have no clue of the address where the card has to be delivered' [2] or how over 30,000 UIDs were generated by using the fingerprint of a man who was exemployee [3]. This is on top of the earlier snafus of identity proof being handed out without any verification at West Delhi MP Mahabal Mishra's residence. [4], a wanted terrorist getting an UID under a false name [5], or even giving a man an UID card with the picture of a woman [6]. UIDAI has promised to fix the loopholes in "ver 2" beginning June 2012.

[edit]Legal challenges

K S Puttaswamy, a retired judge of Karnataka High Court filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court challenging the legality of UIDAI.[47] The petition, among other things, argued that:

  • UIDAI and Adhaar are illegal as the bill that seeks to legalize them, National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 has been rejected by Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance. The bill is pending for further consideration.[48]
  • UID numbers and Aadhaar cards are being given to all residents, including non-citizens. This means, illegal migrants and foreigners residing in India could possibly get benefits based on Aadhaar cards. This is contradictory to the Citizenship Act, 1955, which does not recognize non-citizens at par with citizens.[49]
  • collection of biometric data is an invasion of a citizen's right to privacy which is guaranteed by the Constitution under the Fundamental Right to Life, and therefore requires Parliament's sanction and is beyond the executive power.[49]

A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Jasti Chelameswar agreed to examine the matter and issued notice to the Govt of India.[47]


[edit]See also

[edit]External links


  1. a b c "Rs.100 crore for Unique Identification Project"The Hindu(Chennai, India), 17 February 2009, retrieved 2009-06-26, "... The Unique Identification Authority of India is being established under the aegis of the Planning Commission for which a notification has been issued in January 2009. A provision of Rs.100 crore has been made in the annual Plan 2009-10 for this ..."
  2. a b c "Nilekani to give numbers, ministries to issue cards"The Economic Times, 16 July 2009, retrieved 2009-07-18
  3. ^ "Nilekani takes charge, says first set of IDs in 12-18 months"The Times Of India. 2009-07-24.
  4. ^ "India gets Info czar in Nilekani"The Statesman, 25 June 2009, retrieved 2009-06-25, "... Nandan M Nilekani ... will be the chairman of the Unique Identification Database Authority of India under the aegis of the Planning Commission ... Mr Nilekani will have the rank and status of a Cabinet minister ..."[dead link]
  5. ^ "PIB Press Release". Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  6. ^ What is Aadhaar Number ? | Meaning and Definition of Aadhaar
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Who's Who in Nilekani's UID Dream Team"The Wall Street Journal, 29 September 2010, retrieved 2010-09-29
  9. ^ Tembhali Live: 'Our dreams will never be realised' - News
  10. ^ In time warp, Tembhali village leapfrogs to present - Mumbai - DNA
  11. ^ "Aadhar takes off: PM, Sonia launch UID in tribal village". Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  12. ^ "Sonia is my ''Aadhaar'', says first UID recipient - NDTV Profit". Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  13. ^ Bajaj, Vikas (25 June 2009), "India Undertakes Ambitious ID Card Plan"The New York Times, retrieved 2009-06-26, "... Policy makers see a national ID card as critical to improving the delivery of social services, subsidies and other government programs while also strengthening national security ... the majority of aid earmarked for the poor does not reach them, and it is hard for the government to detect embezzlement and misuse of funds ..."
  14. ^ "Nilekani first chief of Unique 'ID' project"The Assam Tribune, 25 June 2009, retrieved 2009-06-26, "... For long, national identity cards have been advocated to enhance national security, prevent potential terrorist attacks and stop illegal immigration, said officials ..."
  15. a b Aadhaar enrolments beyond 20 crore, 27 January 2012, "...UIDAI will be allowed to enrol additional 40 crore residents beyond 20 crore already recommended by the EFC."
  16. ^ "Include Aadhaar number in population register, says PC"Deccan Chronicle, 24 January 2012, "...Post Mumbai attacks in 2008, the government has decided to issue cards...Aadhaar is only a number while NPR is a resident identity card."
  17. a b "National ID card project"Indiatimes Infotech, 1 July 2009, retrieved 2009-07-01, "... Some estimates suggest that the project will create at least an 100,000 additional jobs in the country in the next three years ... According to the plan, govt proposes to issue a unique identification number to all citizens by 2011 ..."
  18. ^ "ID'ing the masses may solve Indian identity crisis"Associated Press, 17 July 2009, retrieved 2009-07-18, "... For long, national identity cards have been advocated to enhance national security, prevent potential terrorist attacks and stop illegal immigration, said officials ..."[dead link]
  19. ^ "Nilekani may get EPFO database for UID project"Indian Express, 18 July 2009, retrieved 2009-07-18, "... "This is an opportunity for us to get ID cards for the subscribers of EPFO and ESI. We would like the EPFO subscribers to be first beneficiaries of the Unique Identity Card (UID) project," a senior Labour Ministry official told The Indian Express ..."
  20. ^ Features of the UIDAI Model, "...Existing identity databases in India are fraught with problems of fraud and duplicate/ghost beneficiaries. To prevent this from seeping into the UIDAI database, the Authority plans to enrol residents into its database with proper verification of their demographic and biometric information... the Authority will partner with agencies such as central and state departments and private sector agencies, who will be 'Registrars' for the UIDAI..."
  21. ^
  22. ^ K. Baland (2010-04-26). "The telugu : News / National : UID number gets brand name, logo". Chennai, India: Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  23. ^ "UID project cost may not cross Rs 18,000 crore: Sharma"Hindustan Times, 20 January 2012, "...The total cost of allocating unique identification numbers to the 1.2 billion population in the country may not cross Rs 18,000 crore, Aadhaar project mission director Ram Sewak Sharma on Friday said."
  24. ^ Cost of the UID Project, "...The total cost of the UID project will be about Rs 18,000 crores, nearly 1/10 of Ramakumar and Bidwai's estimates."
  25. ^ Citizen IDs to cost Rs 10,000 crore Template:GOVT. OF INDIA
  26. ^ "इंफोिसस से िवदा लेंगे नंदन नीलेकिण Nilekani will bid adieu to Infosys",OneIndia Hindi, 25 June 2009, "... इस महत्वाकांक्षी प्रोजेक्ट पर करीब छह अरब डालर का ख़र्च होगा (this ambitious project will cost about $2.5 billion) ... नीलेकिण को कैिबनेट मंत्री का दर्ज़ा िमलेगा (Nilekani will receive the rank of a cabinet minister) ..."
  27. ^ "Budget 2012 reinforces UIDAI's existence"Economic Times, 16 March 2012, "...The government has allocated the UIDAI Rs 1,758 crore from the Budget in 2012-13, a year-on-year increase of 47%, primarily to increase enrolments of Indians for unique IDs to 600 million, from 200 million."
  28. ^ "UIDAI issued 13.8 cr Aadhaar cards till March 7: Ashwani Kumar",The Economic Times, 14 March 2012, "...Kumar said the government has approved cost estimates of Rs 8,962 crore for phases I, II and III of the scheme for the period up to March, 2017."
  29. ^
  30. ^ Role of Biometric Technology in Aadhaar Enrollment, 21 January 2012, "...The Enrollment status of the UIDAI project as of Dec 31st 2011..."
  31. ^ "It's a "six-week break" for Aadhaar enrolments"The Hindu, 16 February 2012, "...Last week, the enrolments crossed the 200-million mark...Enrolments are slated to recommence by mid-April..."
  32. ^ Aadhaar - Unique Identification
  33. ^ "UID phase 3 approved for Rs 8,815 crore"Voice & Data, 30 January 2012, "...The Cabinet Committee on Unique Identification Authority of India (CC-UIDAI) has approved the commencement of Phase-Ill of the UID scheme at an estimated cost of Rs 8,814.75 crore."
  34. ^ Why Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance rejected the UID Bill - India News - IBNLive
  35. a b c d
  36. ^ Rajanish Dass, Unique Identification for Indians: A Divine Dream or a Miscalculated Heroism?, 2011
  37. ^ Aadhaar data puts MHA in a spot
  38. ^ Ramanathan, Usha (2010-04-04). "Implications of registering, tracking, profiling"The Hindu (Chennai, India).
  39. ^ Eight reasons why you should oppose the UID - An appeal to all citizens - South Asia Citizens Web
  40. ^ Why Indians should fear the UID - India News
  41. ^ "V S Achuthanandan voices misgivings about UID project"The Times Of India.
  42. ^ A Critical Primer on India's UID: Simi Chacko and Pratiksha Khanduri « Kafila
  43. ^ Chidambaram raises concerns about UID, say sources |
  44. ^ Ramakumar, R. (2011-12-16). "Aadhaar: time to disown the idea".The Hindu (Chennai, India).
  45. ^
  46. a b c
  47. a b "Supreme Court notice to govt on PIL over Aadhar"The Times of India. 1 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  48. ^ "Aadhaar on what basis, SC notice questions govt". 1 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  49. a b "'Collecting biometric data for Aadhaar worse than phone tapping'"Firstpost. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.