Urbanization comes with its share of problems. Your new job lands you in a new city and you need necessities such as a mobile connection, a broadband connection or a bank account transfer as soon as possible. Your only hope in such cases till now is maybe a letter from the employer authenticating your address.
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Enter UID, the unique identity project headed by Nandan Nilekani, which promises to give an acceptable identity proof to everyone who resides in India. Here’s a primer on what it means and how to get it.
What is it
The UID project will issue a unique 12-digit identity number, called Aadhaar, to every resident of India. It will be issued to all permanent residents irrespective of their age, gender or citizenship. However, the scope could later be extended to include persons of Indian origin and non-resident indians, if necessary. Aadhaar will have both biometric and demographic information and hence will be backed by reliable and verified identity checks, residential checks, age proofs and biometric identities that would satisfy know-your-customer (KYC) checks put in place by various financial and utility service providers.
As per notifications from the ministry of communications and information technology and the ministry of finance, Aadhaar will be treated as valid proof of identity and address and accepted as an officially valid document to satisfy KYC norms for obtaining new phone connections and opening bank accounts.
However, as per a recent Reserve Bank of India circular, all bank accounts opened only on the basis of Aadhaar will be treated as small accounts, i.e. accounts which have certain transaction restrictions.
Individuals will not have the choice of opting for Aadhaar minus the biometric details. “The basic principle underlining the number is uniqueness and we can ensure this only if the biometrics are taken into account as it is the only factor distinctive to every individual,” says R.S. Sharma, director general and mission director, Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI).
The number will not be in the form of a card. Instead, residents will receive a letter from the UIDAI giving them their UID number and the information registered against it. The letter will have a tear away portion that can double up as a card for reference.
How to enrol
The UIDAI has tied up with various government agencies such as state governments, state-owned banks and Life Insurance Corp. of India who will function as registrars. The registrars will set up enrolment camps at various locations. Once a camp has been set up in your proximity, you can go and register yourself. The registration process includes collection of both demographic and biometric data. To establish the demographic data, you would have to produce proofs of identity, address and date of birth.
In case a person is unable to produce a date of birth proof, then the date and age given by him will be taken as final. If a person is unable to produce the necessary proof of identity and address documents, he could be granted a UID number based on introduction by an authorized introducer who has already obtained Aadhaar.
Children below the age of 15 would be granted a UID based on the UID of their parents. Since their biometric details change as they grow, they would have to re-register their biometric details and renew the UID once again when they turn 15.
The biometric data will include all 10 fingerprints, iris scan and face recognition.
Once your data has been obtained and the form filled in, the enrolling officer will allow you to verify the data. After you are satisfied with the correctness, it will be saved and submitted and you will be issued a receipt in English and the local language.
The data will then be sent to the central identity data repository where the biometrics are checked for duplication. Once it has been verified, the UID number will be conveyed to you through a letter. The entire process will take 20-30 days.
The UIDAI is also in the process of finalizing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the department of posts and the registrar general of India to function as its registrars. Said Sharma, “Once this MoU is signed and India Post begins enrolment, it will both speed up the process of enrolment and give it a wider reach.”
Rejection of application
Your application for Aadhaar can be rejected if there is a data or process error. In this case you can re-enrol for it. If however, your biometric records match with any existing record, then you would have to register a complaint. UIDAI will then order a field investigation to verify the physical existence of both persons whose biometric details match. If the verification proves that both the cases are genuine, then you will be granted an Aadhaar.
Change of information
You can update or rectify any data as per the procedure which will soon be prescribed. If the error is small, such as spelling of the name, you can call up 1-800-180-1947 and get it rectified. However, for bigger changes, such as address change, you will have to visit walk-in centres which will be located at easily accessible points.
Identity proof: It will enable any service provider to verify the individual’s identity and authenticate it online in a cost- and time-efficient manner. This will also help eliminate duplicate and fake identities.
Financial inclusion: In the first stage, the project is likely to give a big boost to financial inclusion and benefit mainly those who do not have access to formal credit system as they lack acceptable proofs and supporting documents.
Problem of multiple proofs: As the project advances, it is likely to benefit all sections of society. The biggest benefit being a common factor of authentication. Says Navin Agrawal, head (government advisory), KPMG India, a consultancy firm, “Today you might have different identity cards bearing different names and addresses. Aadhaar will be a common factor running through all of them.”
So, it will do away with the need to submit multiple proofs and supporting documents. Adds Sunil Chandiramani, partner and leader-government services, Ernst and Young, “Today when you opt for any service you have to submit a birth certificate, photo identity and address proof. Once you have Aadhaar, it will be possible to verify all these.”
Indirect benefits: Aadhaar will enable service providers to initialize and deliver services faster bringing in efficiency. It is also expected to bring in indirect benefits. Says Chandiramani, “As leakages in the system will be plugged, government’s revenue will increase and the taxpayers burden could be reduced.”
As of now, the UID number will enable you to open a bank account and buy prepaid SIM cards. But eventually several service providers are likely to begin accepting it. It will, however, not replace the need for other documents which currently double up as identity proofs. Says Agrawal, “Each of those serve a very specific purpose. For instance just because you have a UID does not mean you can drive.”
Though not mandatory, it could become necessary in a few years time. For instance, adds Chandiramani, “Today a PAN card is not mandatory. But every taxpayer necessarily has it because if he doesn’t produce it, he pays tax deducted at source at a much higher rate.”
You might wonder about the security of the data but experts will ally those fears. Says Agrawal, “Such a question arises only if there are dangers associated with it. There might be errors and challenges, but a project of this scale is bound to have some initial hiccups.”
The data will not be shared with any agencies, institutes and individuals and authentication will be done through a yes or no. It will be secured both physically and electronically. Says Sharma, “Security of the data has been our top priority. We have taken all steps to ensure that the data is secure and non-hackable.”
Apart from this, there are several smaller problems that a project of this size will have to face yet there is optimism.
Graphic by Yogesh Kumar/Mint