The government has banned all official comments on the Aaadhar-NPR issue. The running battle between the two programmes has turned so bitter that the UIDAI website has been blocked on the government’s source server itself, and NPR officials cannot access it.
This newest twist in the controversy came at a Cabinet meet on January 31. Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde spoke in favour of the NPR, contending that ‘Aadhar’ is not a card and NPR is necessary for national security purposes. Finally, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was playing the peacemaker between the UIDAI and the home ministry, intervened and referred the NPR card proposal with a budget of Rs 5,500 crore to a GoM for further discussions. Interestingly, the same cabinet had approved both Aadhar and NPR in 2012. Cabinet notes of January 27, 2012 reveal that a supplementary note discussing Aadhar and NPR was distributed and discussed among all the ministers apprising them of the government proposal. The note says “NPR’s Resident Identity (smart) Cards would carry the Aadhar number”. It was cleared by the Cabinet and the prime minister.
Notes of the Planning Commission circulated at the same meeting stated that the purposes of Aadhar and NPR are different. Subsequently no objections or questions were raised by the Council of Ministers. ‘Aadhar’ and ‘NPR’ were discussed on later occasions in 2012; the Cabinet approved the proposal for collecting biometric data to be shared by both UIDAI and the home ministry. At no point did the commission object to NPR and the resident identity card. In the notes, it was also clarified that Aadhar would just be a number while NPR will be the identity card for security purposes.
[Editor's note: To the commenter below and all our readers: NPR stands for National Population Register.]