$340 million allocated for Aadhaar expansion in Indian budget

According to a recent press report, after an extensive review, India’s new national government has decided to retain and expand Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric database.

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 millions of Indians, was criticized by several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in the run-up to the national elections. Now that the BJP is in office, analysts have said that the new government has chosen “pragmatism over politics” and has decided to maintain the system and accelerate resident registration in its first budget.

The new government has allocated nearly US$340 million to continue with the registration process.

After an examination last month, the national government concluded that many Indian states had made significant headway with enrolling residents in the Aadhaar system. As a result, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided Aadhaar should in fact continue and not be merged with India’s census database, as previous press reports suggested would occur.

The government’s objective is now to enroll 100 million more residents with Aadhaar. UIDAI has already enrolled about 700 million people and issued unique identification numbers to 650 million.

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