Taking a Parliamentary committee head-on, Nandan Nilekani-headed Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asked a Cabinet committee to reject its recommendations on the project saying it was not based on facts.
A parliamentary standing committee headed by BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha in last December had asked the government to stop the unique identification project and rejected a draft bill to provide legal backing to UIDAI.
In a stern rejoinder, the UIDAI has reportedly said the committee's projection that providing unique identification number to each citizen will cost around Rs 1.5 lakh crore was incorrect and highly exaggerated. The UIDAI project would cost Rs 18,000 crore to the government.
"The parliamentary committee failed to cross check the basic facts from us before putting them in the report," a senior government official, requesting anonymity said. "The report did not say on what basis they reached the figure".
The parliamentary panel first asked the UIDAI to make a presentation after which civil society activists such as Usha Ramanathan, an independent legal researcher and Gopal Krishna of NGO toxicwatch presented the case against UID.
What has irked the UIDAI was the fact that the Parliamentary committee never called them to give their view regarding claims made by activists. "The entire report has their activist version," an official said.
The UIDAI was also amazed to find the committee did not deliberate much on the draft bill, its mandate, and instead, presented recommendations on the government's policy to provide a 12 digit unique number to each resident of India.
Sinha's committee, in fact, said the government should give UID only to Indian citizens and not all residents as decided by the government. The committee also raised the privacy issues and safety of data regarding each Indian resident.
The UIDAI, through the Planning Commission, has finalised a proposal for the Cabinet Committee on UID seeking rejection of most the recommendations of the parliamentary committee.
The Cabinet committee is also likely to seek approval for the draft bill, which proposes setting up of national unique identification authority of India.