Narendra Modi’s decision on Aadhaar poses big challenge for authorities

New Delhi,Mannan Kumar: Keeping an eye on the future assembly polls, especially Bihar and UP, and rationalise subsidy regime to improve fiscal health, prime minister Narendra Modi has not only adopted UPA government’s Aadhaar platform fully but, to the dismay of many critics within the government, has advanced the date of collecting biometric details of the entire entitled population from September 2015 to March 2015.

Narendra Modi’s decision on Aadhaar poses big challenge for authorities

Generation of Aadhaar numbers to nearly 110 crore residents will allow the central government to dole out cash transfers for schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme directly into the bank accounts of the targeted population, which can be a game changer for the BJP in assembly elections.

In Bihar, where for a population of over 10 crore, only 66 lakh Aadhaar numbers have been generated so far, assembly elections are due in November-December 2015. In Uttar Pradesh too, that will go to assembly polls in March-April, 2017, Aadhaar progress is dismal with only 2.08 crore out of the target population of 17 crores getting enrolled.

Despite employing former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani as head the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and steadily increasing his powers, the UPA government had managed to roll out only a small part of its entire direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme.

“The decision to advance the dates was taken by PM Modi himself in a meeting of all ministries concerned on October 14. He advanced the date for entire biometric collection for both National Population Register (NPR) under Registrar General of India (RGI) and UIDAI to end March, 2015 from earlier date of end September, 2015 that the government had suggested on September 6 meeting this year,” highly placed sources told dna.

The decision has left both the agencies – UIDAI and NPR – flummoxed as together they have to collect biometric details of 40 crore-plus residents in just five months. In many states like UP, even the initial work of tendering the works has not begun.

In comparison, it had taken them nearly four years to collect the biometric details of 70 crore residents, of which, data of 44 crore residents was collected by the UIDAI with several reported cases of wrong de-duplication alerting even the Intelligence Bureau and conduct a security audit. It had found that Aadhaar numbers were given to entities like Mango, Hanuman and long dead historical figures etc. Sources in the IB said, linking Aadhaar number with various services and allowing people to have things like SIM cards is not fool-proof and can have dangerous security implications.

“There have already been cases of people impersonating. Moreover, using EKYC (Electronic-based Know Your Customer) to activate the SIM cards, without verifying it through other means, can allow anybody, including terrorists, to use mobile phones,” said the IB.

Senior bureaucrats also conceded that the stiff deadline in all likelihood will be missed by the agencies or else it will come with a burden of huge flaws and snags that again will take enormous resources to correct and in the meantime have serious implications.