Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has fully supported Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chief Nandan Nilekani’s effort to enroll all residents of India under the Aadhaar card scheme.
Singh has instructed the Planning Commission to bring a proposal before the cabinet to provide statutory powers to UIDAI to enroll beyond the present limit of 20 crore people.
The home ministry, which is collecting biometric details of people for creating the National Population Register, had cited security reasons to object to UIDAI’s enrollment. It disagreed with the plan panel’s suggestion to change the rules to allow UIDAI a bigger enrollment.
Singh had wanted home minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia to resolve their differences. He stepped in this week when their discussions failed.
The move means two government agencies — UIDAI and home ministry’s census commissioner — will now independently record the biometric details of residents, leading to duplication of effort and resources.
Ahluwalia said it wasn’t possible to avoid duplication as the home ministry refused to amend its rulebook to accommodate the UIDAI.
“We don’t refuse to develop a road alongside a railway line on grounds of duplication. It is impossible in the government to completely avoid duplication,” he said.
The commission said while the home ministry’s initiative was security-related, the UIDAI was a development initiative.
The commission has proposed changes in the draft UIDAI Authority Bill to define the authority’s role for enrollment. The bill, examined by a parliamentary standing committee, empowers the authority to develop a policy and system for issuing Aadhaar numbers to residents.
“Changes in the provision will be made to provide statutory powers to UIDAI to enroll all residents in India,” a commission official said, adding that a cabinet committee might consider the proposal next week.