The UPA may have conceived Aadhaar, but it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is giving the ambitious project to provide each Indian a biometric identification card its hardest push by setting a deadline for bringing everyone under its coverage.
Modi has set June 2015 for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to achieve universal coverage, insisting that systems be put in place to ensure everyone — from newborns to prisoners in jail — is issued an Aadhaar number.
The Prime Minister told home ministry and UIDAI officials to make Aadhaar compulsory for issuing passports at a meeting earlier this month.
He also told them to collect the biometrics of those who didn’t have an Aadhaar number at the passport office to ensure people weren’t harassed.
“The PM is clear... the country needs Aadhaar to improve governance standards and nothing should be allowed to stand in the way,” a government official told HT.
Planning Commission secretary Sindhushree Khullar told state government officials on Tuesday to ask for an Aadhaar number while enlisting a beneficiary in government-run social sector schemes.
The UIDAI project launched in 2009, which had run into operational hurdles, got a new lease of life after its former chairman Nandan Nilekani gave a presentation to Modi in June on its benefits.
Soon after, the Prime Minister brushed aside speculation that UIDAI would be transferred to the home ministry.
“Until (Nilekani’s) presentation, we were very nervous as the future of the project was uncertain,” said a UIDAI official. “Now the PM has himself ensured that Aadhaar is the core of his governance model and we are confident that the deadline given by him would be met.”
State governments have less than nine months to collect biometrics of 520 million people and the UIDAI has to generate the numbers. In the past three years, the UIDAI has generated Aadhaar numbers for 680 million people.