The UPA government’s cronyism towards glitch-ridden ‘Aadhaar’, reflected in a slew of measures recently suggested to the Union Home Ministry, may escalate the budget and further delay providing identity cards to its citizen which is supposed to start from 2014.
The National Population Register (NPR), a project under Ministry of Home Affairs, is running at a snail’s pace after the government asked the Ministry to avoid the states where Unique Identification Authority of India (UADAI) is collecting biometrics data for ‘Aadhaar’ number, clearly favouring UIDAI over the NPR.
Sources said the NPR can only start the process after UIDAI is finished with over 70 per cent of work which may delay the entire project by another two years. The deadline to complete the entire NPR process was 2014 but it can be extended to 2016. The government has already spent `1,972 crore on UIDAI project till August 2012 and according to sources, a demand of Rs 5,000 crore for this year is still pending. As per the estimate, ‘Aadhaar’ project will cost approximately `45, 000 crore to the national exchequer.
“NPR can only enter a state other than allocated to it after UIDAI has completed more than 70 to 80 per cent of work which will put the entire NPR project at risk,” sources said.
As of now UIDAI is collecting biometrics data for ‘Aadhaar’ number in 19 states. Once UIDAI completes its process in a particular state, NPR will not capture the biometrics data but instead use ‘Aadhaar’ number and data collected by the UIDAI.
“But due to authenticity of the Aadhaar numbers in several states under scanner, the NPR will have to do the complete exercise in some areas to avoid the ‘fake’ data ,” sources said.
An official of NPR on condition of anonymity said, the systems are in place and NPR has already digitised the data of 1.21 billion people collected through house to house enumeration in 2010. “But because of the government’s new decision we can only capture the data for NPR after UIDAI finishes its job. This arrangement will not only delay the entire process but will increase the budget of entire exercise as state governments will have to use their resources in setting up two camps,” he said.
It is learnt that despite the then Home Minister P Chidambaram’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in June to resolve the de-duplication of data issue, NPR is still facing problem because of the procedural delay by the UIDAI. Chidambaram had told Prime Minister that the UIDAI was objecting to the conduct of NPR camps in certain states and also refusing to accept the biometric data of NPR for de-duplication and generation of ‘Aadhaar’ numbers.
“The NPR project is almost at a standstill at present due to refusal of the UIDAI to accept the data collected under NPR for de-duplication and generation of ‘Aadhaar’ numbers,” Chidambaram had told the Prime Minister in June.
Sources said process of certification and activation of operators in the UIDAI system is long drawn which is delaying the NPR project and in several states UIDAI has hired new operators who are yet to settle down with the new system which is also raising security concerns.
“The MHA has consistently raised issues regarding the process and data security under UIDAI. Assurances have been made that the security loopholes would be addressed. However, breaches are often being reported in the media which affect the credibility of the entire project. A comprehensive review is required to address this in totality,” NPR status report prepared by Home Ministry said.
Sources privy to the development said after last meeting on June 7, PMO asked Home Ministry to bear with UIDAI and not rake up the issue again.
“Since then we are clueless on several important issues including self audit of UIDAI to look into ‘fake Aadhar’ numbers. Now they are collecting data and we keep a tab to see if the development reached to a substantive portion before we make a move. Last week we decided to move in to Tripura to capture the data after UIDAI finished its job,” sources said. According to officials in the Home Ministry, sourcing data from UIDAI has its own risk. Recently it received an Aadhar number issued to a tree in Delhi which raises serious security concerns.
“There are various such complaints but the UIDAI so far has not been able to fix the procedural problems while capturing the biometrics data which may end up creating more obstacles for NPR,” sources said.