Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NDA's national ID cards may kill UPA's Aadhaar

In a move to target government welfare schemes and subsidies on citizens of the country, the Union home ministry has asked the Registrar General of India (RGI) to identify the 'citizens' and 'non-citizens' while preparing the National Population Register (NPR). The NPR authorities will undertake a door-to-door verification exercise across the country in this regard. 

The citizens' register, to be called the National Register of Indian Citizens, will serve as the database for national identity cards carrying a unique national identity number for each citizen of the country, besides other identification fields. 

TOI has learnt that NPR authorities will carry out the nationwide verification exercise to establish the citizenship of each and every person on its population database. A list of 19 documents - including birth certificate, death certificate, land records, school records - have been identified for proof of citizenship. 

While stage 1 of the NPR project - creation of an electronic database of residents - is over, the second stage, covering collection of biometrics, is under way. The approval for the third stage, which will now cover verification of citizenship, will be sought next. Once the National Registration of Indian Citizens is prepared, a national identity card will be issued to each citizen. As for non-citizen residents of the country, there is a proposal to issue them resident identity cards, which will be of a colour different from the national identity cards held by citizens. 

The go-ahead for creation of national register of Indian citizens through linkages with birth and death registration and issuance of national identity cards to all citizens came at a meeting on Wednesday held by Union home minister Rajnath Singh to review the NPR scheme. Singh's call for "taking the (NPR) project to its logical conclusion, which is the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens" is being seen as a major indication that the proposed national identity number, rather than Aadhar, would be the new basis for disbursal of government benefits. 
Sources indicated that Singh acknowledged the lacunae in the UPA's flagship Aadhar scheme, particularly the fact that it envisaged issuance of Aadhar number to all usual residents of the country, including foreign nationals and illegal immigrants. This would entitle them to benefits under schemes like MGNREGA and subsidies through direct cash transfers.

Notwithstanding the panel's reservations, shared by then Union home secretary and now BJP MP R K Singh, the UPA government promoted Aadhar in a big way, even dividing the biometric collection exercise for creation of NPR between UIDAI and RGI authorities. 
Sources in the government indicated that UIDAI, which administers the Aadhar scheme, may soon see its role diminished due to de-duplication, even as NPR focuses on biometrics collection. The government will also take a call on whether the existing Aadhar database is to be handed over to the NPR authorities, which may then carry out an address verification in line with its security norms. 

The review meeting, during which RGI and Registrar General of Citizen Registration C Chandramouli made a detailed presentation on the NPR project and emphasized its importance for national security, saw Singh appreciate the security features of NPR scheme vis-a-vis Aadhar. Incidentally, this issue was earlier raised by a parliamentary standing committee headed by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, which criticized the lack of any verification of address of Aadhar applicants and "introduction" system for enrollment.

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