George Orwell fans may get some randy ideas, but Citizen No. 782474317884 won’t be turning into an automaton with a serial number scrawled on her scalp. All that has happened is that 30-year-old Ranjana Sonawane from a village in Maharashtra has got a unique identity (UID) in the form of a number that will be stored in a central government database. As a result, if anyone decides to masquerade as Ms Sonawane — and such matters of proxy, we are told, do happen in India — her attempt will come to nought.
There has been much ink poured and air exhaled about what the purpose of a UID is. Those reared in tales of the Big Bad Government have assumed that India’s citizenry will be tagged like cattle for some ultimate nefarious exercise some day. There are others who seem to think that having a unique number itself will solve the worries and provide the needs of a billion-plus people with index numbers. Both scenarios are not only exaggerations but also untrue. The UID project will simply record the existence of a person who resides in India. What can be done by utilising this information is a matter for other agencies for other purposes. Indexing books in a library is not synonymous with either building a readership or earmarking titles for censorship. It just remarks and records the fact that these are the books there. It’s the same with Indians and their UIDs.
Ms Sonawane, being the first recipient of the UID courtesy the unique Aadhaar scheme, will always be special. It could, therefore, be interesting to see how she benefits down the years from her new ID tag. That’s if anyone’s interested in tapping this giant, inimitable project. And if Ms Sonawane allows us to track her unique trajectory.