October 5, 2010

the unique identification project

The Unique Identification (UID) project has been started to provide identification to each resident across the country. Under ex-INFOSYS chief, Nandan Nilekani, this project has been running for a year now and has been bolstered with adequate finances running into thousands of crores. A bill has recently been drafted to give legal teeth to the whole exercise. The first unique ID was issued on 29th September 2010 in Tembhli tribal village in Maharashtra.

This post is meant to remove fog from the concept of identification as envisaged under the UID project.
  • What is the Unique ID?
Unique ID or Aadhaar is a 12-digit number that identifies the holder of that ID with the help of various identifiers.
  • Who can get the unique ID?
Any resident - citizen or not - can get Unique ID. Getting Unique ID is voluntary.
  • When will all residents get Unique ID?
The UID Authority has scheduled that over 5 years starting from 2009, about 600 million Unique IDs will have been issued.
  • Who issues Unique ID and how?
The numbers will be issued through various 'registrar' agencies across the country. Registrars may include state governments, Public Sector Units (PSUs), banks, telecom companies, etc. Registrars may in turn partner with enrolling agencies to enrol residents into Aadhaar.
To get Unique ID, residents will have to go to the nearest Aadhaar enrolment camp, details of which will be published in papers. Residents will need to carry along certain documents, as mentioned in the advertisement. Residents will be photographed and have their fingerprints and iris scanned. The Unique ID will be issued within 20-30 days.
  • Will Unique ID replace the identity cards or other IDs issued at present?
Unique ID will not replace any cards such as ration card and passport. However, Unique ID will facilitate issuance of such cards because identification will not be required again and again.
  • Will the Unique ID tell about caste, religion or location of a person?
Unique ID is a random number without any tag for caste, creed, religion and geography.
  • What will be the key benefits of Unique ID?
--No need for identification check again and again for various services, licences, etc.
--Better check against identity-related frauds.
--Will empower poor and underprivileged residents in accessing services such as bank loans.
--Migrants will not have identity problems in new place for availing of various services.
--Will create huge databases for use in planning public services and welfare schemes.
--It will be possible to integrate various services using the uniqueness of the Unique ID.
  • What are the main points of criticism of the Unique ID project?
--It is being introduced without detailed discussion and responding to cricism.
--The database is liable to hacking and manipulation, and data corruption.
--The data can be sold by unscrupulous handlers, leading to breach of privacy.
--There will be large-scale misrepresentation of identities and personal details.
--Implementation of the project will be problematic; we have not been able to straighten out issuance of PDS and election ID cards.
--Biometric data is not reliable as it is subject to differences in various parameters and biometrics also undergoes changes over the life span of a person.
--There will not be great benefits in terms of checking frauds and leakages. Most leakages are because of collusion and extortion that cannot be addressed by Unique ID.
--Use of National Population Register (NPR) data by Unique ID project will help illegal immigrants as they are part of NPR and will be issued Unique ID, which will then be used to get government employment and services intended for Indian citizens.
--Similar identification projects have failed in some other countries.

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