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The move will help aim state handouts better at the intended beneficiaries of various schemes (Mint file)
The move will help aim state handouts better at the intended beneficiaries of various schemes (Mint file)

Opinion | Aadhaar Mark 2

  • Home minister Amit Shah has proposed a 'multipurpose ID card' for Indians, a card designed to subsume all identification documents

Nothing is novel about home minister Amit Shah’s proposal of a “multipurpose ID card" for Indians, a card designed to subsume all other identification documents and help aim state handouts better at the intended beneficiaries of various schemes. That was the job of Aadhaar, cards for which were issued long ago. The difference could be that only bona fide citizens will get this card. Is that enough, however, to justify another exercise of this scale?

Another new aspect of the proposed card is that it will either contain (via a memory chip) or be linked with data from the next Census, due in 2021, which itself is expected to be hooked up with the National Population Register, a comprehensive database of Indian residents that will be up and running from 2020. If you join the dots, the grand plan is to consolidate multiple databases to create a single repository of information on everyone in the country.

The need for an identification project was felt first in 1999, in the wake of the Kargil War. It was the Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam-led panel within the Kargil Review Committee constituted by the then Vajpayee government that had recommended a citizenship database to keep India secure from infiltrators. This project metamorphosed into the idea of a unique national ID card that could enable the state to keep its welfare schemes free of leakages. However for all the dividends the new project might yield, we must not ignore the risk of people’s privacy being put at threat by the existence of one big database with all details of everyone. A security breach could prove costly. In the wrong hands, such data could be dangerous.

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