A Cabinet panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will decide on Wednesday if the government should spend nearly Rs 15,000 crore more to duplicate an ongoing exercise to capture biometric data.
The government had earlier authorised the Registrar General of India under the home ministry to create the National Population Register, a task that required RGI to collect biometric data of nearly one billion people and get them an Aadhaar number through the Nandan Nilekani-led Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
The UIDAI was allowed to collect biometric data of 200 million people and thereafter, it was required to generate Aadhaar for enrolments done by NPR.But the Planning Commission now wants clearance to let the UIDAI enrol entire population, in addition to NPR. "If the Home Ministry refuses (to accept UIDAI data) then the UIDAI should also be allowed to enrol," plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia had said.
This will mean people will have to fill two sets of forms and two sets of biometrics – photograph, iris scan and ten fingerprints – to get one unique number.
Ahluwalia, who was left with no option as Home Ministry refused to accept UIDAI data terming it unreliable, sought duplication and claimed that it would be worth the money spent since the NPR and the UID had different objectives. NPR was for internal security and Aadhaar a development initiative.
Home Ministry officials question this logic, insisting that Aadhaar was going to be generated in the process of creating the NPR in any case. The only point of dispute is if UIDAI should repeat the biometric collection exercise at a cost of crores of rupees.
It is in this context that home minister P Chidambaram declared in Chennai that there was no conflict between Aadhar and NPR. The inclusion of Aadhar number in the NPR cards enable its effective use to ensure government services were delivered to the right beneficiary, he said.
UIDAI countered the home ministry claims by releasing a report saying Aadhaar number scored 99.965% on reliability and accuracy quotient.
Amid this tug of war, the Finance Ministry has backed the plan panel proposal saying Aadhaar was crucial to ensure targeted subsidy under different government schemes for poor and to check diversion. The ministry is also expected to seek approval for Rs 1,600 crore it intends to allocate to UIDAI for the next financial year.