While there are still concerns about privacy, those who have gone to register for the UID number have found the enrolment process more like a punishment
The much-hyped, ambitious project of the Union government, the biometrics-based unique identification number (UIDN) programme has kicked in. However, residents are finding it very difficult to enrol themselves for the 'soon-to-be-mandatory' UIDN due to a lack of facilities.
People are complaining that procedures involved to get UIDN are lengthy, time-consuming and troublesome. As a result, certain sections of people, mainly senior citizens and working professionals are finding it difficult to visit enrolment centres.
According to the procedure, an applicant must first collect the enrolment form by standing in a queue that is usually very long. Most of these centres are at municipal schools and the forms are available only on Mondays and Saturdays, between 10am and 12pm. So, you need to get into the queue well before the counter opens to stand a chance of getting a form. But, again, there is no guarantee of getting a form, as some centres do not have a sufficient number of forms.
In addition, one must carry an identity or address proof, whether it is a public distribution system (PDS) or ration card, or a PAN card, to be able to get a form to apply for the UIDN. Interestingly, while it is printed on the ration card itself that this cannot be used as a residence or identification proof, almost every authority, including the UID registrars, ask for it. This defeats the fundamental purpose of UIDN, which is being created as an identification for those who do not have any.
It this is not bad enough, there's more trouble at the counters, where staff are themselves clueless about most issues. "The exercise is conducted at a municipal school where the collapsible gates are drawn and one has to stand on the outside, barely able to get a glimpse of the staff inside. Every query is dismissed with a monosyllable answer-a "yes" or "no"-and this raises even more questions," says a resident who unsuccessfully tried to enrol himself for the UIDN.
If one manages to obtain and fill up an enrolment form, the registrars issue a token after two days and the person has to collect it between 10am and 1pm or 2pm and 5pm only. During the last stage of registration, the person has to carry an identification proof, like a PAN card or driving license. For children parents are required to produce the birth certificates as well.
"Already there is a lack of awareness and clarity among people, especially senior citizens, regarding the UIDN project. There is also a mobility issue for senior citizens. For them to physically go and complete the procedures is a big challenge," said Shailesh Mishra, the founder of Silver Lining, an NGO that works with senior citizens. "Why can't they come and conduct the enrolment procedure at housing societies, where people can reach easily," Mr Mishra asked.
On the subject of furnishing personal details, Mr Mishra says, "Mumbai has around 10 lakh senior citizens, of which only 50,000-60,000 have registered for the senior citizens cell of the Mumbai police. This is because elderly people are sceptical to share personal information, especially their financials details. I don't know how successful this UDIN project will be in getting information from them."
Another issue is that there is no online facility for enrolment. While forms are available on the UIDAI website, there is no enrolment number on these forms, so there is no option but to stand in the queue at the registration centres.
In order to reach more people, especially senior citizens, the project should have volunteers and work together with not-for-profit organisations. "If they want senior citizens to participate in the enrolment procedure, collaborating with NGOs is a good option. We are ready to help the government in this," Mr Mishra said.
Moneylife has consistently written about the flaws in the UDIN project. In a series of articles, we have described how the project could turn into a threat to the private lives of individuals through misuse of the database. One report pointed out how, despite making an open declaration that it would not be mandatory, the Union government (the chief financier for the project) and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) were busy creating backdoor compulsions for UIDN, through financial institutions and service providers, to ensure that people enrolled or were left out of the system. (Read,Why is UID number being made compulsory through the backdoor?)
Moneylife has also written previously that this ambitious and expensive project uses biometric information like finger prints, IRIS scans and face photos to create a UID number. The authority is roping in fat-profit organisations as its partners, which will very likely result in the database being used for targeted marketing. (Read, 'Fat profit institutions continue to board UID bandwagon' .) In addition, UIDAI has roped in many registrars to undertake this enrolment. These agents are said to be adding their own parameters, and creating their own databases for business. (Read, 'Is the UIDAI database vulnerable?' .)
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