New Delhi: The Home Ministry and Planning Commission have locked horns in a big battle over which organization will carry out the bio-metric collections for the ambitious Unique Identification Number project.
While home minister P Chidambaram has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking an early meeting of Cabinet to take a “final decision”, the home secretary R K Singh has said that till the decision is taken “this impasse will continue”.
The home ministry has expressed strong objection to the proposal of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to extend the mandate for collection of data beyong the limit of 20 crore enrolments.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia
The Ministry wants a clear decision as to which organization will carry out a bio-metric collection in the field, a letter written by Singh to Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth said.
However, planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia today threw his full weight behind the UIDAI saying the project should continue.
“In our view, it should continue. This can be done, parallel with whatever others (Home Ministry) are doing. Whatever UIDAI is doing is the right thing to do and it should be continued”, he said.
Chidambaram wrote a strong letter to the Prime Minister urging him to instruct the Planning Commission to immediately bring a note to the Cabinet so that a final decision could be taken in the matter.
“In my respectful submission, it would not be in the interest of the Government to allow the controversy to be played out in the media,” he said in the letter.
Ahluwalia said that Commission has sent a cabinet note and hoped that it would come up before the Cabinet on Wednesday.
At the centre of the controversy is the collection of bio-metric data of all residents.
While the home ministry has maintained that the Registrar General of India under it has been mandated to collect the data through the National Population Register, the Nandan Nilekani-led UIDAI wants the mandate beyond 20 crore.
The UIDAI has already collected information about 170 million people.
In his letter, Chidambaram said the Registrar General of India has been tasked with the duty to collect the bio-metric data of all usual residents in the country.
The project is proceeding well and is expected to be completed by mid-2013, he said.
However, he added that the UIDAI has also been authorized to collect bio-metric data of up to 200 million people and the UIDAI wants to have its mandate extended.
Recalling that he has spoken several times to Ahluwalia and requested the Planning Commission to bring a note to the Cabinet for obtaining a decision, the Home Minister said “I think it is important that there is clarity on the issue so that the work of capturing bio-metrics can go forward. Hence, the need for an early decision.
He also complained that “some inspired stories” have appeared in the media painting the MHA black and presenting distorted facts.
The Home Secretary, in his letter to the Cabinet Secretary, said that the Ministry finds it difficult to understand that while the UIDAI is willing to accept the documents which have been issued by third party persons who are not even present at the time of enrolments, it finds it difficult to accept the data collected by the Government servants for processing.
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