Unique Identity Card

identity cardThe NDA governemnt proposed (UIC) unique identity card in 2003 for its own reasons. Now the UPA II had appointed corporate honcho Nandan Nilekani to stear head this project which is worth of Rs.1,50,000 crores. Unlikely other schemes this one should work timely so that all the social welfare schemes for the poor can reachout to the concerned people on time.

The Times of India writes (29 June 2009)

For a huge country with a 1.2 billion population, providing biometric unique ID cards to citizens would be a mammoth project. And much would depend
on who headed the assignment. With Nandan Nilekani’s appointment as chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India, there’s comfort. Representing a potentially fruitful public-private partnership, the ex-Infosys co-chairman’s cabinet-level induction marks a welcome departure from the usual practice of keeping key national projects in political and bureaucratic hands. Picking the right brains was key to executing such a big-ticket reform.

Nilekani has reflected on the problem of the multiplicity of identity markers, as his book Imagining India shows. The Congress-led UPA, on its part, had made the single national ID a poll issue. This meeting of minds on the scheme’s transformational nature should help address the challenges ahead. And there are a few. The 2011 deadline for delivery is ambitious, for starters. A national population register needs to precede issuance of cards, providing error-proof citizenship data. There are also big technological challenges. Central and state government services would need to log into this mother of all e-governance initiatives.

But difficulties in implementation are worth facing considering the gains. The security benefits are obvious, given the terror threats India faces. The problem of illegal migration can be better tackled. There are huge social and economic benefits as well. Poverty alleviation will get a fillip with proper identification of the beneficiaries of, say, job guarantee or food security programmes. Governments can get to save money by plugging leakages and targeting subsidies efficiently, a fiscal gain. Besides, business transactions would improve in general in myriad time and cost-saving ways.

Likewise, ordinary people’s lives will be made easier. Right now, people have to furnish any and everything from birth certificates to ration cards and PAN numbers for getting things done with different organisations, whether passport issuers, tax authorities or banks. We can also expect more accountable government, with networks of political patronage and corruption being dealt a blow. Another political dividend: poll-managers would better counter misuse of the electoral process. It remains for the authorities to ensure that the process of building an identification database is transparent. The glitches and complaints of ‘identity theft’ that have marred, say, BPL or voter ID card disbursal can’t afford to be repeated here, since we’re talking citizenship stakes.

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