NEW DELHI, 14 July-2014, Mahendra K Singh/TNN: Ending speculation over the fate of Aadhaar numbers, the BJP government is set to push legislation to ensure legal sanctity to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which was set up to generate unique identification numbers for 1.2 billion residents of the country.
The government is expected to soon approach the Supreme Court and seek vacation of the stay on government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of welfare schemes.
After getting a thumbs up from PM Narendra Modi, UIDAI is set to accelerate the project to ensure Aadhaar enrollment for around 930 million people by the end of next year.
So far, UIDAI has given Aadhaar numbers to 640 million residents, with 177 million coming from the National Population Register (NPR).
“We are getting cooperation from state governments. UIDAI has already opened 3,000 stations in UP and 1,000 in Bihar. Soon, more stations will be opened to speed up enrollment process in these states,” said Rajesh Bansal, assistant director general of UIDAI. These two populous states are crucial for complete rollout of Aadhaar-linked direct benefits transfer (DBT) schemes, he added.
The agency also completed authentication, or de-duplication, for 10 crore people last week.
An official present in a meeting held recently said Modi has asked finance minister Arun Jaitley to try and resolve all legal issues surrounding Aadhaar.
The PM had conveyed his government’s intention to continue with UIDAI and sought speedy rollout of DBT scheme, aiming to check duplication and leakages in welfare schemes.
The strong message from Modi is expected to end the turf war, which had raised questions about the survival of the UIDAI project.
Under the UPA regime, both NPR and UIDAI had been given the mandate to collect biometric details of Indian residents.
The fast-tracking of Aadhaar schemes by the Modi government came after the realization that subsidy burden could be reduced only by checking duplication and leaks in welfare schemes.
UIDAI officials emphasized that the authority was a “bona fide legal entity” administrated “like any office” of the government and was “fully accountable” to Parliament and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
“As far as biometric safety is concerned, we are governed by Information Technology Act,” Bansal said.
There was speculation about the fate of UIDAI under the Modi regime since it was conceived by the Congress and BJP’s manifesto seemed in favour of the National Population Register (NPR) project.
To accelerate the scheme, the Modi government’s first budget allocated around Rs 2,039 crore for the unique identification project in the current fiscal.