Unique Identification Authority to become a statutory body

New Delhi: A bill seeking to grant statutory powers and status to Nandan Nilekani-headed national body for issue of identification numbers to all citizens was introduced in the Rajya Sabha today, reports PTI.

The National Identification Authority of India (NIAI), constituted in January, 2009 is functioning as an executive body under the Planning Commission.

As the NIAI is expected to issue the identification numbers to citizens, it may require statutory powers to deal with issues like security and confidentiality of information, impersonation and unauthorised access to data.

However, it was felt that mere executive powers may not be adequate for the Authority to discharge its functions.

“It has been felt necessary to make it as a statutory authority for carrying out the functions of issuing identification numbers to residents in India in an effective manner,” the statement of objects and reasons of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, said.

The proposed legislation was introduced in the Upper House by minister of planning and parliamentary affairs V Narayansamy amidst din and shouting of slogans by the opposition, agitated over irregularities in allocation of second generation (2G) spectrum, as pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

The scheme was launched at Nandurbar, a tribal district in North Maharashtra in September.

“The scheme of unique identification involves collection of demographic information and biometric information from individuals for the purpose of issuing of unique identification numbers,” the bill said.

It has provisions for up to three years imprisonment besides penalties for any misuse of information.

“The authority shall take measures (including security safeguards) to ensure that information in the possession or control of the authority is secured and protected against any loss or unauthorised access...,” it said.

The authority will consist of a chairperson and two part-time members appointed by the Central government for a term of three years.

There is also a provision of an Identity Review Committee to check the pattern of usage of identification numbers.

The Cabinet had approved the bill on 24th September. The identification number will be issued to citizens except those in Jammu & Kashmir to ensure the authentication of individuals for access to benefits and services of government and other various schemes.

Earlier, the government had pegged an expenditure of Rs3023 crore by March 2011 and thereafter recurring establishment costs for the entire project to be completed by March 2014.


Govt considering tobacco industry request on pictorial warning

New Delhi: The government late Thursday said it is “actively considering” a request from the tobacco industry to increase the duration of display of a particular pictorial warning in cigarette packets, reports PTI.

There are two existing pictorial warnings like scorpion and damaged lungs while a new and stricter one—a cancer-stricken mouth—was to be depicted from 1st December. Such warnings are to be rotated every year.

Tobacco companies, which were under an impression that the timeline for ‘mouth cancer’ warning would get pushed back, had made representations to the health ministry seeking clarity on the matter.

They have insisted that the existing cigarette stocks lying with the retailers should be allowed to be sold first and if the new warning must come into effect then its duration should be increased to two or three years so that companies do not need to print new packets every year.

“While the health ministry advocates lessening use of tobacco, the request of the tobacco industry is being actively considered,” sources at the ministry said.

The state exchequer earns Rs27,000 crore revenue every year from sale of cigarettes and bidis.

Tobacco majors ITC and Godfrey Phillips India (GPI) have stopped production of cigarettes citing lack of clarity on the issue. An ITC spokesperson today said, “units (for making cigarettes) are shut because of the ambiguity in pictorial warnings to be carried from 1st December onwards.”

Similarly, production has been stalled since 1st December onwards at GPI’s two units in India. The development may cost the state exchequer Rs100 crore per day.


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