A government committee has slashed the budget of the high-flying unique identification project by half, which could slow down its implementation.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), also called Aadhar, had sought Rs 6,734 crore from the government for the first phase of it scheme to provide citizens with unique identification numbers (UIDs), in the next four years. But, the finance ministry’s expenditure finance committee (EFC), at a recent meeting, decided to allocate only about Rs 3,000 crore.
According to official sources, a key segment of the UIDAI’s proposal — to give incentives worth Rs 3,200 crore for registering residents for the scheme — has been scrapped.
“The committee felt there was no need to give cash incentive to registrars,” a government official said.
“I am not aware of any such development,” UIDAI chairperson Nandan Nilekani said.
The official said the view at the meeting was that most Indians would automatically go for the 12-digit UID once the government links several benefits to it. For instance, the government has already announced citizens will need UIDs to be beneficiaries of schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Public Distribution System. Hence, there was no need for further incentives.
The UIDAI, in its proposal to the EFC, had suggested incentives to UID registrars — which would be government bodies — to attract people. One idea was to provide a bank account with an opening balance of
Rs 100 to a person who seeks a UID and give another Rs 100 to the registrar.
The first set of UIDs for public distribution system is scheduled to roll out in Andhra Pradesh by October.
This isn’t the first time that bureaucrats have opposed a UIDAI proposal. Earlier, there was resistance to including iris scan as a biometric requirement for getting a UID due to its high cost and low utility. But, Nilekani was able to convince the government on this count.