UK scraps National ID project; Will India's UID face the same fate?

According to some experts, the least that needs to be done is that UIDAI should make a comprehensive case to justify why what was rejected in the UK is good for India

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has been busy assembling bits and bytes for its ambitious citizen identification (ID) project. However, in another part of the world, a similar identification project has now been scrapped by none other than the UK government. This has given a boost to pro-privacy architects in India who are worried about the privacy implications of the UID project.

The scrapping of the National ID programme by the new government in the UK was not unexpected.  Many people, organisations and even some politicians were questioning the viability of the NID project. According to a BBC report, the NID scheme was aimed at tackling fraud, illegal immigration and identity theft—but it was criticised for being too expensive and an infringement of civil liberties.

Theresa May, UK's home secretary, was quoted as saying that the NID will be abolished within 100 days with all cards becoming invalid. The new government would put legislation to this effect before Parliament with an aim to make it a law by August. Around 15,000 people who voluntarily paid £30 for a card since the 2009 rollout in Manchester, will not get a refund, the BBC report says.

What’s interesting is that the UK government has cited higher costs, impracticality and ungovernable breaches of privacy as reasons for cancellation of the NID project. These reasons may have a similar kind of impact in India as well.

According to some experts, the least that needs to be done is that UIDAI should make a comprehensive case to justify why what was rejected in the UK is good for India. They feel surprised about why the media has not publicised the reports that the UK has rejected the UID primarily because of concerns regarding civil liberties.

"One hopes that the UID-related contracts awarded already to E&Y and MindTree do not have any lingering after-effects, should commonsense (we don't have a great track record in commonsense, especially where money is concerned, but it's never too late to hope) hit our government and the UID agency be asked to pack up its tents," said one expert.

While announcing the abolition of NID in the UK, Ms May said, “This Bill is a first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them. With swift Parliamentary approval, we aim to consign identity cards and the intrusive ID card scheme to history within 100 days."

Back home, according to UIDAI, the first UID numbers will be issued from August 2010. Over five years, the Authority plans to issue 600 million UIDs. The numbers will be issued through various ‘registrar’ agencies across the country, UIDAI said on its website.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had sanctioned Rs1,900 crore for the UIDAI in his budget for FY10-11. 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 as UID, tend to be very sticky in the sense that these systems would be in active use for centuries. 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.

Over eight years, the UK government spent around £250 million on developing the national ID programme. However, its abolition means the government 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 estimate of £4.5 billion.

The Cost of the UID project may not be a hindrance for the Indian government, whose accounts are flush with money from the 3G auction, but what about its impact on civil liberties? Will there be a comprehensive discussion on the subject? One can only hope that the Indian government and the UIDAI closely study the reasons for the UK government’s decision to scrap its National ID project and then provide compelling reasons for India to go ahead with its UID project.

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    2 years ago

    Stop mandatory ADHAAR*
    Avoid problems*


    3 years ago

    UIDAI is on one of the most important one: It is going to be revolutionary in India. And, I'm pretty sure that, this is going to be as single ID for all the users in Inida, you track check here here
    #UIDAI #SingleUID


    6 years ago

    Two projects that the UK government really needs to implement is a National Healthcare program that will bring down healthcare costs. Increase competition as well as reduce paperwork!
    The other a National Online ID system that police can use to cut crime as well as benefit agencies being able to cut fraud!


    9 years ago



    10 years ago

    After reading several interviews, blogs & posts regarding this projects my impressions are:
    1. This project is absolutely needed.
    2. One the greatest challenges of this project will be people who do not want their ID to be revealed for justified reasons. Consider this example:
    Suppose someone ran away from a home in a village area in India because of caste related violence. Suppose this person is now living in a big city with a new (false) ID. And suppose exposing the true ID will risk his/her life, or the life of family members. Having this project, there will be only two options:
    Lying about ID to get the number. Or, not getting the number and being, eventually, excluded from having a bank account, medical care, and so on. Having false identity will mean danger of police abuse, and the severe laws of misusing the number will make it worse.
    Possible solution: have another project within the UID project to solve this problem. Suppose, 'IDP' or 'ID protection program', where the person will be allowed to give a false name, only in court it could be revealed that the name is false.

    Mitun Chowdhury

    10 years ago

    I am proud of UID card project. India will be one step ahead many counties in coming years. I lived in Japan, Australia, USA, Canada, Ukraine. I have seen many id related problems and few solutions. I believe, UID is a just and clever solutions of all Indians.


    10 years ago

    This country is attacked from all sides. Its very eistence is at?? People talk of civil liberties and all that stuff. But to whaT EXTENT? It has become a fashion to talk about these things. I am not advocating a police or oppresive regime. What about Social Security Number assigned to everyone in US? Is it in anyway infringing freedoms and liberties? UK Govt might have seen only from the 'affordability angle'. We do not know. It requires wide discuasion among the masses. Not only among politicians, govt. servents and intelegentia. - Arthachakra


    10 years ago

    if it does not work for england, it probably won't be good for india!! what kind of logic is that ... the only objection raised by the author is about civil liberty .. the US has the social security number which does not perturb anyone .. you should present more valid arguments rather than churning out this banal stuff

    Naresh Mani

    10 years ago

    In my humble opinion the author seems to have gone completely awry with interpretation of the UID. The author’s dogmas (for the lack of a better word!) are completely misplaced about the UID and its best that he/she puts it to rest.
    United Kingdom, unlike India already has a comprehensive identification process through the National Insurance and NHS. Each and every citizen of UK is accounted for, unlike the case in India.
    For the UK it is the case of making no sense to add another large scale biometric identification program when one already exists. Further, UK do not have more than 40% (official) illiterates, making it impossible to identify one from another.
    The UIDAI program tries to satisfy the very basic and fundamental need of an Indian, to have an identity. I would applaud Mr. Nilekani to have chartered on such a difficult path and I would wish him the very best in his endeavours.
    Privacy concerns though not completely irrelevant, are secondary. Google collects much more information about individuals, but I have not seen anyone in India raising a hue and cry about the same.

    K B Patil

    10 years ago

    Our people are used to being treated like cattle. That is the reason why no hue and cry is being raised over the issue of privacy and rights of citizens. With our HM known for his advocacy of strongarm tactics, is there any chance of a thorough discussion? The only silver lining is that Nandan Nilekani is a sincere man.

    India among least favourable destinations for sovereign wealth funds: Report

    According to the Sovereign Brands Survey, Egypt, Germany, Brazil and China are among the most familiar and the most favourable

    India has been placed alongside the US and the UK as the least familiar and least favourable to sovereign wealth fund (SWF) investment, a new survey has revealed, reports PTI.

    According to the Sovereign Brands Survey, conducted by research and communications strategy consultants Hill & Knowlton and Penn Schoen Berland, Egypt, Germany, Brazil and China are among the most familiar and the most favourable.

    The survey looks at the factors on which SWFs intended to invest in their country or industries.

    Stephen Davie, Hill & Knowlton's head of financial communications in the Middle East, said: "Despite being considered one of the least volatile forms of investment compared to other sources of capital, it is surprising that low familiarity still drives low favourability towards this type of funding.

    The survey results show by working on their reputation and by increasing awareness of their SWFs is a key step for Middle East countries looking to open up significant investment opportunities."

    The survey identified transparency as essential, 72% citing this as very important, closely followed by accountability (68%) and good governance (65%).

    Dubai did not score well on transparency with Western countries—only 3% of UK, 9% of the US and 14% of German respondents believing its SWFs to be transparent.

    Asian countries had a more positive view with 29% of Chinese and 30% of Indian elites having confidence in Dubai's approach.

    Nearly three quarters (73%) of elites would approve of investment coming from Dubai, according to the Sovereign Brands Survey 2010, the most extensive study into the attitudes of global broad elites to sovereign wealth as a concept, the reputation of host nations and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs).

    The study interviewed elites in seven markets on their views of 19 host countries and their SWFs.

    Nearly all (98%) of the respondents felt the reputation of the country directly influences the reputation of SWFs.

    It also identified that lack of familiarity with SWFs may lead to suspicion about the overall objectives of the funds.

    The survey showed that knowledge of Dubai is still low.

    When elites were asked whether they thought Dubai shares their values, only 1% of the respondents from Germany believed this to be true, while it was 3% in the UK and 5% in the US, compared with 84% in Egypt.

    Most countries have a positive view of investment from Dubai, and when asked about the areas they would like to see Dubai investing, the respondents pointed to construction, leisure and finance.

    Joel Levy, chief executive officer, Penn Schoen Berland, EMEA, said: "The economic downturn has created a real opportunity for sovereign wealth funds.

    SWF's images are largely determined by country reputation, and despite low familiarity and concerns over transparency, broad elites see SWFs as least likely to have contributed to the recent market turmoil.

    This puts sovereign wealth funds in a prime position to consider their positioning and reputation in contrast to other funds and asset classes.

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    Shadi Katyal

    10 years ago

    I think I have brought this topic of your arbitrary wiping our the letters because your security code doesnot match.
    Can the Indian genieus who wrote this program can change it???

    Whys is anyone surprised with this heading > I doubt if there are many funds who wish to invest in anation where not only one has to unwind miles of red tape but also must have some Bukhsheesh ready.
    a nation who treats her own NRI so shabbily will not get any sympathy from others.
    The make the tings worst the Indian Govt now wants to enforce punishment on NRI for her wown mistakes and thus wants to make Law Retroactive that every NRI who have taken citizenship of othr lands should pay a fine as Indian Embassies diidnot keep the passport when first time visa was applied and passport was presented for cancellation.
    We have along way to go to become
    a productive nation. Look at your own sytem that since code word got misplaced all the writing disappears.

    Economy grows at 8.6% in Q4, 7.4% in 2009-10

    The Central Statistics Organisation also revised upwards the growth rates for Q2 and Q3 of 2009-10 on better-than-expected performance by manufacturing, mining and quarrying industries

    Driven by a robust performance by the manufacturing sector, the Indian economy grew by 8.4% in the last quarter of 2009-10, pushing up the overall growth to a better-than expected 7.4% for the fiscal, reports PTI.

    The manufacturing sector grew by 16.3% in the fourth quarter (January-March 2009-10) and 10.8% in the fiscal.

    The gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 7.4% for 2009-10, higher than the February projection of 7.2%.

    The Central Statistics Organisation (CSO) also revised upwards the growth rates for Q2 and Q3 of 2009-10 on better- than-expected performance by manufacturing, mining and quarrying industries than first thought.

    There was no decline in agriculture growth in 2009-10, despite widespread drought and floods hitting the farm output.

    According to the CSO data, the farm sector recorded a growth rate of 0.2% contrary to expectations of negative growth.

    Following the global financial crisis, the GDP had moderated to 6.7% in 2008-09 after recording a growth rate of 9% in the three preceding years.

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