Home > Ethics > Nilekani unique card project bill is Rs 3,000 crore

Nilekani unique card project bill is Rs 3,000 crore

Giving every Indian resident an identity number will cost Rs 3,000 crore. That’s the estimate made by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) led by the former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani. In a 40-page document on the unique ID project, leaked on the online portal wikileaks.org, the authority says enrolling each resident in the project will cost between Rs 20 and Rs 25, taking the cost of providing ID numbers to 1.2 billion people to over Rs 3,000 crore. Estimates in the media on the project have varied sharply between Rs 500 crore and Rs 1,50,000 crore.

Wikileaks calls itself the ‘uncensorable part of Wikipedia’, focusing on protecting internal dissidents, whistleblowers, journalists and bloggers. The UID document is the third Indian one this year on the site, which specialises in exposing documents marked secret or is beyond public purview.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the project gleaned from the UIDAI document.

The Unique ID Number: The authority will create a unique ID number for each resident in the country, linked to a person’s demographic and biometric information. It will have a person’s name, date of birth, place of birth, gender, father’s name, father’s UID number (optional for adult residents), mother’s name, mother’s UID number (optional for adults), address (permanent and present), expiry date; photograph and fingerprints (all ten fingers). No other information will be collected. The law on UID will specifically prohibit collection of any information regarding religion, race, ethnicity, caste and similar matters. It’s called ‘unique’ because a duplicate for the same person cannot be issued. It will remain valid for life with regular updating. Any attempt to enroll for a second UID elsewhere with the aim to defraud will attract penal action.

Purpose of UID: It will only guarantee identity and will not confer any rights, benefits or entitlements. It does not confer citizenship. The residents would however be spared the hassle of repeatedly providing supporting identity documents each time they open a bank account or apply for passport or a driving licence or any other similar service. It will be accepted as identity proof across service providers.

The Cost: Residents will not be charged for enrolling for the UID numbers.

Is it mandatory? No. The authority believes that getting the UID number will be demand-driven, where the benefits and services linked to the number will ensure demand for it. Even schools will demand a child’s UID before admission.

ID card & registrars: The authority will not issue any cards. However, registrars, which include state governments, or central government entities such as oil ministry or Life Insurance Corporation of India which would enroll residents would have the option to issue UID cards for a certain charge. The authority will decide the charge. Registrars may also be private sector participants such as banks and insurance firms. Rural development and panchayati raj department and municipalities would be sub-registrars to the state government registrars.

Enrolling agencies: Registrars will also establish resident touch points through enrolling agencies. For example, a hospital where a baby is born would be an enrolling agency for the baby’s ID, reporting to municipality sub-registrar. A baby would necessarily have to be given a name before enrolling. Birth certificates will carry the UID number. Enrolling agencies will take in a person’s information and verify the supporting documents on the basis of ‘know your resident’ standards. Document norms for the poor or marginalised groups may be relaxed or different.

ID repository: The authority will be the regulatory body for managing the central ID data repository. Once the enrolling agencies send the demographic and biometric information to the repository, a Unique ID number, randomly generated, would be sent to the enrolling agencies and given to the resident with details, including a 2D barcode.

Ensuring uniqueness: Each resident’s data will be checked on key fields and the fingerprints against the database to ensure that there is no duplication.

Updating information: The UID number will remain the same for a lifetime, but biometric information would have to be updated every five years for children and ten years for adults. Demographic information like change of address and name (after marriage) would also be updated.

Authentication & privacy: The authority will offer online authentication where agencies can compare the demographic and biometric information with the record in the central database. When authenticating data on a particular resident, it will not part with information, but only give a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. Several levels of technology safeguards are being put in place to ensure that privacy of residents is maintained. Basic identity confirmation, say the UID number, name and one other parameter such as date of birth would be free. But address verification will cost Rs 5 and biometric confirmation on the photograph or fingerprint would be a charged at Rs 10. Biometric confirmation may largely be done by credit card and financial companies. The authority expects to earn Rs 288 crore a year from paid verification.

Two-language formula: All data entry by enrolling agencies will be done in English. However, this can be converted into the local language using transliteration software. The details sent to residents will have all demographic data in English and the local language.

Tracking enrolments: The authority will use a internet-based geographical information system (GIS) to visually track all enrolment trends and patterns down to the districts.

The Timeline: The authority will start issuing UIDs in 12-18 months and it aims to cover 600 million people within four years, and almost the whole population in another six.

Recording deaths: The UID system will not remove a record upon a person’s death; it will simply be marked as ‘deceased’ which will render it inactive for identification purposes.

The authority says eliminating duplication under various government schemes is expected to save the exchequer over Rs 20,000 crore a year. India is the first country to implement a biometric-based UID system on such a large scale.

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