Not only will nearly 600 million people have to queue up twice to enroll for the Aadhaar number and the National Population Register (NPR), they will also have to foot the bill for the duplication.
Nine months after a cabinet decision promised to avoid duplication and "avoidable costs" in creating the NPR and Aadhaar, it has now been revealed that the public exchequer would end up wasting more than Rs. 900 crore on duplicating enrolment details for the two programmes. For, enrolment with or without the biometric factor - i.e. photo, iris scan and ten fingerprints - would cost roughly the same.
The cabinet had in January allowed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to enrol 600 million people across 18 states, including Delhi, Haryana and Maharashtra. These people had to turn up again when camps for NPR were opened in their locality to provide additional details for the population register.
The government had claimed that duplication would be avoided - and the extra cost too - as people who enrolled for Aadhaar would not have to submit their biometric details again. It had concluded that because of this, vendors wouldn't have to be paid for the purpose.
However, private firms who collect biometric details for the NPR have told the government that the cost differential without counting the biometric process would be a mere R3-4 per person. For instance, even if a person comes to the camp without an Aadhaar card, the facility will still have to be made available for him. And the government cannot avoid paying for it.
They pegged the fixed cost account at about 75-80% of their total enrolment cost.
This means that the home ministry - which has to pay about R18-22 per person for capturing biometric and additional details - would still have to shell out about Rs. 14-18.
"They have a point," a government official said, stating that he had long believed the "ill-conceived" decision in January would end up with thousands of crores of rupees going down the drain.
If the UIDAI was so insistent on enrolling people, the cabinet should have ordered the home ministry as well as the identification authority to adopt the same processes, the official said. "Biometrics apart, today you have a situation where, in 18 states and union territories, UIDAI enrolls a person and collects information across five fields. Then the NPR goes to the same place and seeks information across 10 more fields," he explained.
In the remaining states, only the NPR camps will be held and the Aadhaar numbers issued on the basis of its database.