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World's biggest identity project launched

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched the Unique Identification programme, or Aadhaar, at a function in Tembhli, around 505 km north of Mumbai. They handed out UID numbers to 10 tribals of Tembhli. Dharmendra Jore reports. Numbering names

india Updated: Jun 27, 2012 15:51 IST
Dharmendra Jore

Farmer Dyaneshwar Walvi (35) could not understand what Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were doing in his dusty Tembhli village in tribal-dominated north Maharashtra on Wednesday. "Why are they here?” he asked.

He got his answer when Gandhi and Singh launched the Unique Identification (UID) programme, or Aadhaar, at a function in little-known Tembhli, around 505 km north of Mumbai. They handed out UID numbers to 10 tribals of Tembhli.

Villager Ranjana Sonawane (40) became the first Indian to get the 12-digit UID number. “This scheme for the common man is a symbol of new and modern India,” Singh said at the function. “Now you will get the benefit (of government schemes) that you didn’t get so far.”

"UID will give the poor the right to all government schemes, especially in places like Nandurbar where tribal people still don’t benefit from welfare schemes,” Gandhi said.

The Congress chose Nandurbar to launch the programme after Maharashtra said it would be the first to release the first set of UID numbers, by November.

Besides, all of Nandurbar’s Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies are reserved for scheduled tribes, and it has voted only for the Congress since Independence, barring a few exceptions in the Assembly polls. A backward district with a literacy rate of less than 50%, its per capita income at Rs 11,789 is the lowest in Maharashtra, and 75.43% of its families fall below the poverty line.

At the village, there were mixed reactions. Anil Thakre (12), a Class VI student, said he looked forward to opening a bank account now that he has an Aadhaar. In another corner, Bhagwan Thakre voiced the village’s concern: “These functions don’t do us any good. The leaders come and vanish while we live in penury.”

Some protested that a concrete road should have been laid through the entire village. “The officers are smart, they built the road only around the venue only,” said a villager.