A bitter feud between the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the home ministry over the collection of biometric data of 1.2 billion Indians has finally been resolved, with the government distributing the work equally to its two wings.
The union cabinet has allowed the UIDAI, headed by Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys Technologies, to enroll an additional 400 million residents in 16 states and give them 'Aadhaar' cards, taking its total coverage to 600 million residents. The UIDAI has already collected information relating to 200 million citizens.
The Registrar General of India (RGI), part of the home ministry, will collect similar data from the remaining population in sensitive, border states and in districts affected by extremist violence for its National Population Register (NPR). Both the UIDAI and the RGI will share biometric data collected in their respective areas to reduce duplication.
''This is a win-win solution,'' Nilekani told a news conference, which was also addressed by home minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia. ''The system will ensure that if anybody has been covered in the NPR, he will automatically get an Aadhaar number and vice versa. There will be no NPR number, only an Aadhaar number.''
The ambitious Aadhaar project, which has the backing of both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, has been facing a rough patch with the home ministry objecting to its collection of biometric data. The ministry claimed that the NPR, which aims to issue national identity cards to all citizens, would be the main authority collecting the data.
The UIDAI was established to collect biometric data to ensure targetted spending of about Rs3,00,000 crore of annual food and other subsidies and wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme; a large chunk of this is wasted and siphoned off by middle-men.