Aadhaar to launch in the next few weeks, starts from Andhra

Aadhaar to launch in the next few weeks, starts from Andhra

New Delhi: The government is ready to allot the first batch of unique identification (UID) numbers under a project that aims to give every Indian resident easier access to e-governance and a range of other services.

Residents of Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district will be the first to receive UID numbers from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal agency for the Aadhaar project, a UIDAI official said.

“We are waiting for the Parliament session to get over as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to inaugurate the launch," he said, requesting anonymity. The session is scheduled to end on 27 August.

Set up in June 2009, UIDAI had promised to issue the first batch of UID numbers—based on residents’ personal and biometric details, such as fingerprints and eye scans—between August and February. Six other Andhra Pradesh districts will be covered in the initial phase.

Hyderabad-based V.S. Bhaskar, deputy director general of UIDAI, said 1,500 people from the state have already enrolled under the project. “The target for the state till March 2011 is 3 crore (30 million) numbers," he said.

UIDAI aims to issue the numbers to 100 million people in different parts of the country this fiscal year.

Users will eventually have to use the UID number to access government services such as the public distribution system for essential food items, as well as welfare programmes such as the rural job guarantee scheme. The number will also allow residents who do not have passports, driving licences or other forms of identification—particularly people from rural areas—open bank accounts, apply for loans and access other financial services.

UID numbers will be sent out as letters to each resident. One part of the letter will carry the resident’s name, address and the 12-digit UID number. The second part will have the resident’s photograph along with personal details such as sex and date of birth, and a linear barcode that contains the UID number.

R.S. Sharma, director general of UIDAI, said residents can cut out the second part and carry it along with them, precluding the need to remember their UID number. The barcode can also be read by a barcode reader, lessening the chance of errors that may creep in if the number is being entered manually.

“We are in no way making it mandatory for people to carry around the letter," he added. “The cut-out portion and the barcode has been conceptualized only to help illiterate people or those who can’t remember the number to use their unique identities effectively."

Ernst and Young is an adviser to the project. Sunil Chandiramani, partner and national leader, government services, at the audit and consulting firm, said UIDAI wanted to use technology to ensure that all residents benefit from the Aadhaar project.

This, he said, is why the nodal agency decided to send out UID numbers simply inside a letter with a barcode, instead of issuing “UID cards" that could be used like credit cards.

“Use of cards, with smart chips and other magnetic storage, would have been restrictive in nature and hindered the quick adoption of UID—especially in the far-flung villages of the country," he said. “Also, if a person lost the card, it would be an issue."

The UIDAI is also mulling allowing online verification of UID numbers using the so-called cloud computation technology, as reported by Mint on 24 August. If it decides in favour of this still-evolving technology, the government would just pay usage-based fee for Internet-based storage and processing of Aadhaar-related data, rather than set up its own information technology (IT) infrastructure.

Banks, telecom companies and other service providers who want to verify a client’s identity would then be able to simply send their UID number and biometrics for online verification.