The Aadhaar project of the UIDAI will just provide unique ID numbers and not unique ID cards as was widely thought
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is all set for a pilot rollout of its ambitious unique ID (UID) project Aadhaar, will be spending a whopping Rs45,000 crore on the project. But all this money will be spent only on creating a UID number and not a physical ID card-since there is no budget for issuing such cards.
The very first paragraph on UIDAI's website clearly says that its job is to issue unique identity numbers and not physical ID cards. Here is what the site says:"UIDAI has been created as an attached office under the Planning Commission. Its role is to develop and implement the necessary institutional, technical and legal infrastructure to issue unique identity numbers to Indian residents."
This also means Aadhaar is not an ID card but just a unique number. Much more work needs to be done before it can become a smart card for proper identification. So who will issue the ID cards? Most probably, the responsibility will rest with entities which issue ration cards and voter ID cards.
"Nandan (Nilekani, the chairman of UIDAI) wants to keep his hands and conscience clean by just taking on the responsibility of issuing unique numbers to people. He will leave the issue of smart cards to the other corrupt bureaucracies that are responsible for issuing ration cards and voter (ID) cards," said an IT expert, preferring anonymity.
The UIDAI will collect face details, fingerprints from all ten fingers and iris attributes of all residents for ensuring uniqueness of the identities. For collecting data, UIDAI will use various State and Union government agencies-called 'registrars'-like the departments of rural development, public distribution and consumer affairs along with employees of banks, State-run insurance agencies and oil-marketing companies.
The first set of UID numbers will be issued between August 2010 and February 2011.
Thereafter, 600 million UID numbers will be issued in the next five years. The numbers will be issued through various registrar agencies across the country, says the UIDAI website.
Earlier in April, the Income-Tax Department's proposal to issue biometric PAN cards had been put on hold to avoid duplication with the UID numbers to be issued by the UIDAI. A senior finance ministry official had said, "The biometric PAN card project of the department has been kept in abeyance till the UID is rolled out. In the meantime, the suspension will allow the I-T Department to understand and analyse whether after (the issue of) a biometric UID, a PAN with similar features would be necessary or not." (See: http://www.moneylife.in/article/8/4580.html).
After spending about £250 million over eight years on developing the national ID (NID) programme, the UK government abolished it earlier this year. This scrapping of the project means that Britain will avoid spending another £800 million over a decade. The NID was launched in July 2002-and as of February 2010, its total costs rose to an estimated £4.5 billion. The UK government has cited higher costs, impracticality and ungovernable breaches of privacy as reasons for cancellation of the NID project. These concerns may impact India as well. (See: http://www.moneylife.in/article/8/5684.html).
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had sanctioned Rs1,900 crore for the UIDAI in his Budget for FY11. According to estimates, the total cost of the UID project will be over Rs45,000 crore.
UIDAI itself had admitted that the cost of running such a huge database over years will cost a lot. According to a document on UID numbering available on UIDAI's site, systems that are to be as widely used and for multiple different applications such as the UID will have to be in active use for a very long period.
"Once a billion plus people have been assigned a UID, and applications using the UID to conduct their transactions are evolved, anything that requires modifications to existing software applications and databases will cost a lot," the document said.