New Delhi: The Union government’s ambitious project to provide unique identity numbers to Indian residents received support from an unexpected quarter on Friday with home minister P. Chidambaram backing the project known as Aadhaar.

Reversing stand: Home minister P. Chidambaram. Photo: PTI

The fate of the Aadhaar project has been hanging in the balance after Chidambaram’s own ministry raised questions about the security of data collected for it. The Parliamentary standing committee on finance too has rejected the project on many grounds, including security-related issues. However, on Friday, Chidambaram said he fully supported the UIDAI.

“I do not agree with rejection of UIDAI by the standing committee. I support the UIDAI mandate to issue Aadhaar numbers,"Chidambaram said.

“The only difference was on collecting the biometrics between the Registrar General of India (a wing under the Union home ministry) and UIDAI," he added. Currently, UIDAI has a grant that entitles it to collect biometrics of 200 million people after which the National Population Register, or NPR (which is part of the Registrar General of India), was supposed to take over the task. The home ministry wanted the NPR to collect data for the entire project.

Chidambaram wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 11 November, expressing his unhappiness over the process adopted by UIDAI, which is led by Infosys Ltd co-founder Nandan Nilekani, to capture the biometrics data.

UIDAI has already registered around 120 million people in its system and expects to complete the rest over the next three months. Of the 120 million enrolments, UIDAI has issued Aadhaar numbers to nearly 100 million people and has been issuing one million numbers every day from October. The government has set a target of issuing 600 million Aadhaar numbers by 2014 but has so far allowed enrolment of only 200 million people by UIDAI. NPR is supposed to feed the UIDAI system with biometric data against which Aadhaar numbers will be issued.

Surabhi Agarwal contributed to the story