R8,861-cr boost for UID phase-3

Written by Kirtika Suneja | Bijay Shankar Patel | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 28 2011, 10:45am hrs
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The Aadhar project has been approved R8,861 crore by the finance ministry to reach out to 200 million Indians with biometric cards. The approval still falls short of extending the project to the entire Indian adult population but will allow the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to develop back-end capacity for servicing the entire database of 1.2 billion Indians.

For the time being, it also settles the dispute between Aadhar and the home ministry on who will do the front-end job of registering all adults on a national database. The approval will, therefore, keep the momentum going for the Nandan Nilekani-led project which is an integral part of UPA-IIs governance reform process that aims to provide a unique identification number to every Indian with linked data in biometrics. The home ministry wants the office of the Census General to do the registration as the National Population Register.

The UIDAI is an attached office of the Planning Commission. With the latest approval, the projects third phase will begin from 2012. Earlier, R3,170.32 crore was approved under the first two phases of the scheme by the expenditure finance committee. The first set of 100 million UID numbers were issued between August 2010 and March 2011. Phase I of the scheme, which began in 2009, comprised setting up necessary infrastructure for offices at headquarters and regional headquarters and creating testing facilities for running the pilots and Proof of Concept experiments.

Confirming the development, director-general of the authority RS Sharma told FE: The funding has been approved and this will be used for the third phase of the project.

The approval is significant since in September, the finance ministry had held up UIDAIs additional R17,000-crore funding proposal to capture biometrics of all 1.2 billion Indians through its own registrars, citing duplication in expenditure between it and the NPR.

Recently, home minister P Chidambaram had said the registration should be done by NPR and the data management handled by Aadhar under UID. The Aadhar system has faced criticism from various departments regarding an apparent lack of checks and balances in the registration process. However, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has reaffirmed his commitment to release the requisite funds for the UID mission.

This money will be used for enrolling 200 million people by March 2011. We have already enrolled 140 million and 70 million Aadhars have been issued, said a senior UIDAI official who did not wish to be named.

The authority has been enrolling 30 million residents every month and was keen on securing the funding to maintain the pace beyond March 2012.

We have a target of enrolling 600 million people by 2014 and we cant stop in between because it takes time to ramp up, the official added. But a finance ministry official said those numbers will need additional funding beyond the one sanctioned now, for which no decision has been taken.

Aadhaar enrolment is expected to be a game-changer in the delivery of social security programmes as it can be used to better identify the poor making for better-targeting of welfare payments under schemes like MNREGA as well as subsidies on LPG, kerosene, food and fertiliser.