June 19, 2014 -
According to India’s Home Ministry, the National Population Register (NPR) will be the new favored national identification scheme. The NPR is a comprehensive identity database used for India’s census.
“Home Minister Rajnath Singh directed that effective steps be taken to take NPR to its logical conclusion which is the creation of the national register of Indian citizens. He instructed that all necessary proposals, including the updating of the database through linkages with the birth and death registration system, and the issuance of national identity cards to citizens, be brought for approval at the earliest,” the ministry said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The cards that will be issued through the new register will be national identity cards with biometric-readable features. The cards will be issued to all Indian residents and will be able to be read with handheld readers. According to news reports, the cards will be used to provide services through the direct benefits scheme.
The official endorsement of the NPR scheme effectively means the end of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and its Aadhaar scheme, which to date is the world’s largest universal Civil ID program and biometrics bank.
During the lead-up to the national election, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party sharply criticized Aadhaar as a fraudulent scheme devised to financially benefit Congress Party politicians. The BJP characterized the biometric system as a “political gimmick” and has questioned whether the system adequately addresses control of migrants and national security concerns. The BJP officially supported the view that the establishment of UIDAI unconstitutional and duplicated existing population registration efforts undertaken by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.
Now that the BJP has assumed reigns over the national government, it is no surprise that it has moved to reform resident registration. BiometricUpdate.com first reported in May that the Indian election would impact Aadhaar. This week, we reported that unconfirmed newspaper reports in India claimed that the UIDAI might be merged with India’s census database.
Home Ministry officials confirmed to the Economic Times yesterday that a merger between UIDAI and NPR will de facto occur: “The minister wants the UIDAI scheme to complement the NPR scheme by merging them. The NRP as a result will get priority.”
Analysis in the Economic Times notes that while the UIDAI had enrolled 63 million people in the Aadhaar, the NPR scheme had only enrolled 25 million for national identity cards to date. With the new government giving precedence to the NRP due to enhanced security processes and its perceived ability to eliminate registration of non-citizens for social benefits, it is expected that UIDAI’s role in enrolling biometrics, along with authenticating individuals for the direct benefits scheme will end.
UIDAI might survive as a “back office” operation for the national register, by providing de-duplication service, ensuring that no two people with the same biometrics are able to register multiple times.