The Modi government’s Aadhaar Bill has proposed a blanket ban on sharing biometric details collected for issuing the 12-digit identification number, a move that could choke the national population register (NPR).
The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, introduced in the Lok Sabha last week, permits sharing of individual’s identity details under certain conditions but prohibits using core biometric information such as fingerprints and the iris scan.
The restriction owes its origins to the government’s attempt to satisfy privacy concerns around the database that already has biometrics of 982 million people and could cross the 1 Billion-mark in two months. It has cost the exchequer Rs 6844 crore.
But this spells trouble for the NPR, the original identity database of every resident conceived by BJP patriarch LK Advani when he was the deputy prime minister in the late nineties.
Advani wanted a database of citizens to identify illegal immigrants, particularly from Bangladesh. But a pilot project showed that it would be difficult unless the government first had a database of all residents. This is where home ministry-driven NPR came in.
The initial plan was that the NPR would collect the biometrics of every resident at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar numbers, would ensure there were no duplicates.
But a turf war ensued soon. The UIDAI too wanted to enrol biometric details of residents. A truce called by the Manmohan Singh-led Cabinet gave in to the UIDAI and home ministry’s NPR in 2012. Two years later, some more states were taken away from the NPR.
At last count, the home ministry’s census commissioner has been tasked to enrol biometrics in just three major states —Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal — apart from six north-eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir.
For the rest, the home ministry project had to take the biometric details from the UIDAI.
The Aadhaar Bill shuts the door on this route.
“We don’t know what will happen any longer,” a home ministry official told HT.