The UPA seems to be a hurry to draft unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) Bill after a Parliamentary panel lashed the government for allowing the authority to function without legal backing for more than three years.
A Parliamentary panel headed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Monday said it was concerned that in the last three financial years a huge sum of Rs. 2,342 crore has been spent on UIDAI despite legislative sanction of the scheme.
“In the absence of legislation, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is discharging its functions without any legal basis,” the committee said and asked the government to bring in a UIDAI bill latest by next session of Parliament. The same panel had rejected a draft UIDAI bill about 15 months ago.
A senior government official said the Planning Commission was working on firming up a draft UIDAI bill which would allow residents to seek unique identification or Aadhaar number anytime, anywhere. The authority has already decided to set up one permanent enrollment center in each district to achieve the objective.
The draft bill allows residents the seek compensation and penalty for delay in getting Aadhaar number beyond 90 days and aims to plug the authority’s slackness in issuing Aadhaar numbers.
Thousands of people across India have not received their Aadhaar number even a year after enrollment and many have been forced to enroll more than once but are still waiting for the number.
“My Aadhaar enrollment had been rejected thrice,” said 56-year-old Delhi resident Vijay Goel, who requests with UIDAI officials for redressing her grievance fell on deaf ears. “I have done whatever I could do to get my Aadhaar number except going to the court,” she said.
The proposed bill may not provide relief to residents like Goel, who are struggling to get Aadhaar number, as the government intends to introduce the proposed legislation earliest by monsoon session.
Considering the current political flux in Parliament, getting the controversial bill approved quickly would not be easy for the government. The UPA government intends to provide Aadhaar number to 1.1 billion residents by 2014.
Government officials said government also wants to provide legal backing through the bill to money transactions made through Aadhaar payment bridge mainly for UPA government’s direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme.
The bill would also prescribe the functions and responsibilities of the authority, which is not clear, since the UIDAI was created through an executive order.
The bill also prescribes penalties for offences ranging from impersonation, giving wrong biometrics and punishment with penalty for unauthorized access of data. However, it does not speak about the privacy related issues.