Home minister P Chidambaram on Thursday got the cabinet’s backing to nudge the Nandan Nilekani-led Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to accept biometric data collected under the National Population Register (NPR) for issuing Aadhaar numbers.
The cabinet committee’s advice came in the backdrop of Chidambaram complaining to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week that the NPR project was “almost at a standstill” due to UIDAI’s refusal to accept NPR data.
In a letter to the Prime Minister on 1 June, the home minister had also pointed that he, and senior home ministry officials, had tried to resolve the differences with UIDAI at their levels but didn’t succeed.
“The NPR project is almost at a standstill at present due to the UIDAI’s refusal to accept the data collected under the NPR for de-duplication and generation of Aadhaar numbers. The MHA is keen to complete the NPR project in two years as announced,” Chidambaram wrote.
Government sources, however, said it was not clear if the discussion on UIDAI would be brought on record since there were no formal decisions to be taken. Besides refusing to accept the NPR data on one ground or the other, the home ministry was also piqued at state governments such as Gujarat and Maharashtra refusing to execute the NPR project, allegedly at the instance of UIDAI.
The home ministry and the UIDAI had crossed swords over the latter’s demand to enrol beyond its mandate of 20 crore. Under a compromise solution worked out in January this year, the UIDAI’s mandate was increased to enrol 60 crore residents in specified states.
The UIDAI wanted the ministry to put the NPR project on hold in these states, a suggestion that the ministry couldn’t accept in states where it had invested in the biometric machines and contracts.