June 4, 2012 -
The Unique Identity program of the Indian Government has, so far, been able to successfully enroll about 200 million citizens. It intends to register another 400 million more by 2014. Deemed as the world’s biggest biometric identity exercise, hundreds of million Indians are signing and lining up to have their photographs, fingerprints and iris scanned along with their personal data entered into a central database.
In India, only about 58 percent of all babies born in the country are registered at birth. However, registration into the system does not necessarily come with a birth certificate right away. The remaining 42 percent grow up to have either fake identities or have no solid form of acknowledged existence. Many of India’s general population do not have bank accounts because they lack the proper identification needed to open one.
There are several forms of accepted identification being recognized in the country, among these are the ration cards which helps the financially challenged to buy food and cooking fuel, a driving license and a Permanent Account Number or PAN card which is given by income tax authorities. However, most of these kinds of documents can be obtained via the black market and by paying a substantial amount of money. For example, a ration card can be bought for 60,000 rupees and a PAN card can be had for around 600 rupees.
Another identity issue also arises when a villager moves to an urbanize city for work. The identities or supporting documents these people have are no longer of much use as they will be required to get new ones for whatever purpose. The Unique Identification exercise hopes to give Indians a solid proof of identity.
In what has been called an astonishing outcome for a country that constantly struggles to meet basic challenges, this unique exercise has proven to be a success. With their reliable Identification Number, Indians can open bank accounts and transact business with ease without having to sacrifice a whole day’s pay just to get to the nearest bank branch available to them.