The war of words between home minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia over future of Nandan Nilekani headed Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) may halt next week.
Plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia expected the Cabinet committee on Unique Identification to take up its proposal for providing statutory powers to UIDAI to enroll biometric details of all 1.2 bn residents.
Ahluwalia, who has postponed his visit to Davos for World Economic Forum, has backed UIDAI saying it was a key development initiative of the UPA government."In our view, it should continue. This can be done, parallel with whatever others (Home Ministry) are doing. Whatever UIDAI is doing is the right thing to do and it should be continued," he said.
Home minister P Chidambaram is said to have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to instruct the panel to bring a note to the Cabinet for an early decision on the issue. The Cabinet committee is likely to discuss the proposal next Wednesday.
Chimadmbaram has sought clarity on the status on who will capture bio-metric data – Census commissioner or UIDAI.
As per the existing arrangement, the UIDAI was supposed to generate UID or Aadhaar numbers for one billion residents on basis of enrollment done by the commissioner. The UIDAI has a mandate enroll only 20 crore people till March 2012, of which 17 crore enrollment has been done.
“We are seeking enrolment of all residents by UIDAI,” Ahluwalia said and added that UID and NPR had different objectives and therefore, separate enrolment was possible.
Chidambaram wants the Cabinet to take a final view on the issue to end war of words, in which, Home Ministry was apparently blamed for stonewalling future of UIDAI.
The Home Ministry feels the data collected by UIDAI was not secure as it is not verified by a government servant. UIDAI says verification by a government servant makes no difference as a person’s biometric cannot be changed, once generated.
The Cabinet committee whose other members include finance minister Pranab Mukherjee would be taking a view on the panel’s claim that extra cost to allow UIDAI to enroll would be offset by developmental gains.