In a complete U-turn from its earlier stand, the Home Ministry has come out in full support of the Aadhaar scheme saying it will facilitate “anytime, anywhere, anyhow” authentication to its beneficiaries.
In a letter to all state governments, the Home Ministry said that since one Aadhaar number is allotted only to one person, it allows universal verification of one’s identity. Aadhaar card also enables the deprived and needy people to access services like banking facilities.
“Since Aadhaar is based on the demographic and biometric information of an individual, it eliminates the threat of any fraud and bogus activity.
“Aadhaar will provide its possessor with universal identification. (It) will facilitate ‘anytime, anywhere, anyhow’ authentication to its beneficiaries (and) be a single source of identity verification,” it said.
The ministry’s stand on Aadhaar is in complete reversal of the position taken by it under two predecessors of Rajnath Singh — Sushilkumar Shinde and P Chidambaram.
During the previous UPA regime, the Home Ministry had raised concerns over the sanctity of the the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)’s database, saying uniqueness of identity was not a necessary condition for ensuring authenticity of identity or genuineness of other entries or records of Aadhaar numbers.
The ministry had raised concerns over supporting documents submitted by people as proof of identity and proof of address for getting an Aadhaar number.
In its latest letter to the state governments, the Home Ministry said that the benefits of Aadhaar are many and it can be used at multiple places to prove one’s identity very easily.
A person’s Aadhaar number can be used while opening a bank account as it meets the ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) norms of RBI. The card can also be used for booking tickets online, applying for passport and at many other places where there is a need to provide some proof of identity.
“Aadhaar will give migrants universal mobility of identity. The government can now provide services and facilities to people, especially in the rural areas, in a more effective manner.
“As more and more government services are going to be linked to Aadhaar, it would be of utility to have an Aadhaar card. Aadhaar will hence help the poor to take the benefits or the facilities provided to them by the government which could not be accessed by (them) earlier. Aadhaar will thus become the simplest way of proving one’s identity,” the ministry said.
Aadhaar and the National Population Register (NPR) are national identity programmes of the government of India. The former is being implemented by UIDAI and the latter by the Registrar General of India under the Home Ministry.
“Both collect biometric data covering 10 finger prints, iris scan of both eyes and a photograph. The identity and address of the resident are also identified during the enrolment process.
“Aadhaar provides a unique identity number to every resident in the country. The NPR database is sent to the UIDAI for Aadhaar de-duplication and generating Unique Identity (UID) numbers,” the Home Ministry said.
The Home Ministry’s letter also said that since a correctional home has a number of inmates who might have missed the enrolment process, it would be of immense utility to offer this service to them as a welfare measure when they are released.
Tihar Jail in New Delhi has also started an enrolment process and received a good response. The enrolment process is entirely voluntary and there is no compulsion involved as in ‘The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920’.
Moreover, the data collected by UIDAI is not meant for use by the correctional home and is only for the provision of an Aadhaar card to enable the re-integration of the UTP or convict upon release.
Necessary documentation to aid the enrolment process may be facilitated by correctional home authorities.
“It is hence suggested that the local UIDAI authorities should be approached for initiating the enrolment drive in all correctional homes and the prisoners should be briefed adequately as to the benefits of obtaining an Aadhaar card before the start of the drive to remove any misgivings about the process,” the Home Ministry said.
UIDAI was established in 2009 with a mandate to generate and assign UID numbers to residents of India. Under the UID scheme, enrolment is done by registrars through enrolment agencies, and the government provides outcome-based financial assistance to them.
More than 67.38 crore Aadhaar numbers have been generated so far by the UIDAI since August 2010, when the first such card was generated. The total expenditure incurred by UIDAI since its inception is Rs 4,906 crore (as on August 31, 2014).