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Monday, 30 January 2012 00:00
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Let’s link UIDAI to social spend in a few states at least

In the end, it appears good sense prevailed and, instead of dying an early death, the UIDAI’s Aadhar has been cleared to collect the biometrics of another 40 crore Indians, taking the total to 60 crore—biometrics of the remaining 60 crore Indians will be collected by the home ministry’s National Population Register (NPR). What had deteriorated into a turf war between the two organisations has been partially resolved. It needn’t have been so since UIDAI’s main job was to create an architecture to ensure each person could be identified by her biometrics in next to no time—so, a ration shop owner could SMS a customer’s fingerprint to UIDAI and, within seconds, get a confirmation of identity. But when NPR didn’t seem to be getting the biometrics as quickly as was hoped, the Cabinet allowed UIDAI to collect 20 crore biometrics. To that extent, if NPR is now committed to collecting 60 crore biometrics by June 2013, that’s a good thing. If there is a delay, perhaps the Cabinet will increase the sanction for UIDAI once more.

The division of 60 crore biometrics each for UIDAI and NPR appears neat but the two organisations have to work together to ensure this doesn’t become the potential problem it appears right now. Last week’s Cabinet decision, the briefing said, was that in case of a difference between UIDAI and NPR, it is NPR which will prevail. Given that UIDAI is only about identity—no two persons can have the same biometrics—while NPR also includes information on citizenship and residence among others, this means there is a lot of potential area of conflict which can cause delay.

Meanwhile, if the main purpose of UIDAI was to help lower huge leakages in government expenditure programmes—given the government spends R3-4 lakh crore each year on subsidies and other social spend, a R6,000 crore UIDAI expenditure seems a small amount to spend to avoid the 30-40% leakages at present—perhaps we need to move on this rapidly. The new deadline of June 2013 for both UIDAI and NPR to collect biometrics of the entire population means the date for using biometrics to fix the delivery pipeline has been pushed forward that much closer to the elections, making its implementation that much less likely. A good idea would be to start linking UIDAI to such spending in at least the states where complete biometrics have been recorded.

 

 

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