April 3, 2017 -
According to an article in ieNation, 88.2% of India has now has been registered under the Aadhaar biometric identity program.
Aadhaar is the 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian government to every individual resident of India. The Aadhaar project aims to provide a single, unique identifier which captures all the demographic and biometric details of every Indian resident.
At last count, over 1.1 billion people out of India’s population of 1.27 billion have been registered in the Aadhaar database. According to the article, “in the above-18 category, more men (37.52%) than women (35.43%) have enrolled under the programme; and Delhi, Haryana, Telangana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh have over 100 per cent Aadhaar coverage.”
The article states that the Indian government has spent US$1.3 billion on the program from its inception in 2009 until February 2017. The piece also notes that the government plans to link 537 other entitlement schemes to Aadhaar in order to reduce fraud in social programs.
The 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 also provides identification to people who do not have birth certificates.
Although the Aadhaar scheme was initially launched for the provision of social services, the Indian government’s next intention is to extend Aadhaar to the majority of consumer financial transactions. Currently there are 400 million bank accounts linked to Aadhaar.
Many Indians however are concerned about the “privacy implications” of using Aadhaar as a payment scheme. A report in Scroll.in notes that Aadhaar’s centralized database is plagued by problems including the system’s dual use as identifier and authenticator, and its lack of a sound legal framework.
The recent item in Scroll.in pointed out a number of security incidents, including: telecom employees being arrested for fraudulent use of fingerprints to activate and sell SIM cards, and problems with the storage of biometric data by financial institutions without proper authorization. Other problems include the ability to find personal information, complete with Aadhaar numbers, through simple online searches.
Due to these concerns, it is not surprising that UIDAI has been clamping down on other illegal practices surrounding its biometric database. BiometricUpdate.com reported that the agency recently terminated 24 fraudulent apps and Web sites which claimed to offer Aadhaar services.
Pressures to allow low-income people greater access to the banking system, along with reducing tax evasion, however will continue the drive the government’s push towards a cashless economy based upon Aadhaar in India. Consequently, the government will continue to move toward the Aadhaar registration of the entire Indian population.