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'Address security before extending UID mandate'

delhi Updated: Jan 21, 2012 20:46 IST
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At a time when Home Ministry and Planning Commission are at loggerheads over carrying out bio-metric collections for the Unique Identification Number project, BJP today demanded that the mandate of the UIDAI's ambitious scheme should not be extended without addressing national security concerns.

However, the party said by raising security concerns over the UID project, it was not siding with P Chidambaram in the ongoing battle between the Home Ministry and the Planning Commission.

"Security concerns are more important than the home minister...we want to know by what time the National Population Register will be ready," party chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here.

He said the insistence by the Planning Commission to enroll identities beyond its initial mandate of 20 crore to ensure benefit of welfare programmes to the right beneficiary raises "disturbing questions."

"Can the issue of development be divorced from securities issues? Welfare programmes are financed from tax payers' money. Why should it go to those who have got no legal status to stay in India? There are already reports that in many parts of the country including North–East, illegal immigrants have manipulated documents to corner benefits meant for the poor as also voting rights," he said.

Prasad said in this light the turf war between the Planning Commission and the Home Ministry on such a sensitive issue was "very unfortunate."

He said even the Parliamentary Standing committee on Finance had recently criticised the UID Bill that in substance gives statutory status to the UIDAI "which means overlapping with the National Population Register (NPR) which is also engaged in collection of biometric data."

Prasad used the tussle between the MHA and the plan panel to attack the UPA government, saying, "confusion, chaos, differences and turf war have become the defining and disturbing feature of nearly all decisions of the UPA.

"Ministers don't agree, ministries differ and there is also serious disconnect between the Congress and the allies on many policy initiatives. This is the latest in the saga of uncertainty...," he said.

Citing the Citizenship Act, 1995, he said elaborate provisions prescribe as to who is a citizen of India, what is the qualification for the same and who can get registered as a citizen.

"Under section 14 A of the Act, the Central government has to compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue national identity card to him. Under this provision the Central Government is required to maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens and issue National Identity Card to him. This is a legal obligation," he said.

The Rajya Sabha MP said the whole concept of National Register of Indian Citizen and establishment of a National Registration Authority for this purpose is of fundamental importance.

"Citizens have rights and also obligations. The most important aspect is the issue of national security when we see massive infiltration from across the border to foment trouble, terror and destabilisation in the country," he said.