The Aadhaar Project is a unique identification process which was established in February 2009. The project is implemented by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which is an agency of the Government of India. The project aims to provide a unique 12 digit ID number to all Indians and the UIDAI will maintain a database of residents containing biometric and other data. The ID number will be stored in a centralised database and then it would be linked to the basic demographics and biometric information like photograph, ten fingerprints and iris of the eye of each and every individual of the country. The verification of the number can be done in a very simple way with the help of online connectivity. It also gives a great opportunity for the Government of India to reduce and eliminate the large number of duplicate and fake identities in Government and private databases. The number which would be provided to an individual by the process of random generation will not be based on any caste, creed, religion and geography.
The main objective of the project is to ensure a form of identity for those people who do not have any identity. The project also aims at providing better delivery of services and effective governance. The total budget for the project is a whopping rupees 18,000 crores. In the 2009-2010 Union Budget, Rs. 100 crore was approved for the project for its first year of existence. The project got a huge boost when an amount of Rs. 1900 crore was approved for the term 2010-2011. For the budget year of 2012-2013, Rs 1758 crore has been approved for the project.
The claimed benefits of the project include :
- Aadhaar would be the sole source of identity of verification.
- People would be released from the problem of providing supporting identity cards on a repetitive basis for obtaining a passport, opening of bank account, driving license etc.
- The poor and the underprivileged residents would be facilitated into the formal banking system and other services provided by the government.
- Migrants would be provided with the opportunity of mobility of identity.
- There would also be a financial inclusion with a deeper penetration of banks and other financial areas.
However, the Aadhaar project is facing a lot of criticism as well, especially as its benefits are still to be proved. The main criticism has come from the Planning Commission — it has questioned the administrative system of the project. As per the Planning Commission the people sitting at the top positions would not be seated forever and thus the influence of people like Nandan Nilekani would be missed. So a system should be made wherein the entire procedure of selecting the administrators would be fixed and the issuance of cards would be easily understood by individuals who come by in the future. The other criticism is the infringement on the right of privacy of information which is a crucial factor in the life of any individual. The criticism is that there could be a misuse of the personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of data bases and thus the confidentiality of the information would come under threat. Another major criticism is the high cost that has been approved for the project. The costs that have been approved till date might not be covered by the future revenue that would be produced from this project. The budget for the project is a huge amount and not covering the actual cost would mean a loss of a big number which might even hinder the financial position of the country.
The Aadhaar project is facing a lot of criticism as well, especially as its benefits are still to be proved. The main criticism has come from the Planning Commission – it has questioned the administrative system of the project. Amongst other problems, there could be a misuse of the personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of data bases and thus the confidentiality of the information would come under threat.
Doubts about the reliability of the biometric methods is another criticism which the project is facing. It is an area of concern that the techniques used for biometrics cannot be relied upon as the testing of the technique has not been done fully. So the main basis of identification comes into a thick cloud as biometrics is going to define the main identity of an individual. Fingerprints are another major area of concern. It is often seen that the finger prints of individuals are not proper and clear at all points of time and thus there might be times when the finger prints would not be of the quality which the project is looking for. Yet another criticism is the time span in the completion of the project. The project would take a lot of time to cover the total population of
the country as there is such a big population, so it becomes even more difficult to complete this process efficaciously. And finally the issuance of the card would mean that no services can be availed in the country without this card . This would become a big problem as the time that would be taken by the project to complete the entire process of distributing identity cards to all the citizens would be lengthy and thus for those still waiting for cards, life could become extremely difficult.