June 18, 2014 -
According to press reports, government technology officials will meet this week to discuss the future of Aadhaar, the world’s biggest biometrics bank and Civil ID project.
State secretaries in the public service will meet to advise political officials on whether they should continue the process of introducing legislation that would give the national government the right to ask for biometric and biographic details of all Indian citizens. The meeting will also provide a “status check” on the roll-out of the identification scheme.
The Aadhaar program, governed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is currently used to authenticate delivery of social services including school attendance, natural gas subsidies to India’s rural poor, and direct wage payments to bank accounts. The system, a landmark legacy project of India’s long ruling Congress Party, also provides identification to people who do not have birth certificates.
The scheme, which has provided biometric identification numbers to over 630 million Indians, was criticized by several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the run-up to the national elections. The BJP, which recently formed government, had characterized the system as a “political gimmick” during the writ period and alleged that Aadhaar does not adequately control foreign migrant workers.
Ram Sevak Sharma, Secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), told the Indian Express that the government will determine how Aadhaar and the similar National Population Register will move forward. BiometricUpdate.com reported earlier this week that unconfirmed newspaper reports claim that the UIDAI might be merged with India’s census database.
Determining how the scheme evolves is important, as many Indian states have made significant headway in rolling out Aadhaar numbers for their residents.
Sharma stated in the Indian Express report that: “We have called a meeting of those states where the extent of roll-out of these cards has almost been completed, to decide their future course of action.”
Sharma notes that continuing the project would require new appropriations by India’s Finance Ministry for the 2015 fiscal year. The amount the national government sets aside in its first budget will provide an indication of the project’s future.