UIDAI stops Aadhaar enrollment service by private rural partners

The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) has declined to renew its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the country’s network of common service centers (CSCs) to provide Aadhaar enrollment services, The Quint reports.

CSCs were established in 2006 to provide services to rural areas to reduce the need for Indians to travel long distances to have access to government services. By 2016, there were nearly 200,000 operating in the country, 25,000 of which were authorized by UIDAI to capture biometrics data for the Aadhaar program, register individuals and print Aadhaar cards. In addition to Aadhaar, CSCs can also provide services related to insurance, passports, PAN cards for tax system identification, birth and death certificates, and voter ID cards.

In July 2017, UIDAI responded to reports of price gauging by CSC operators and database monitoring concerns by ordering enrollments to be conducted at government locations, whether preformed by a CSC or not. Recently it took the next step, saying it may not be able to renew the MoU with CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, the agency specially formed to administer the system, “in view of the enormous number of complaints of corruption and enrollment process violations against Aadhaar enrollment….”

“Cutting off common service centres shows the structural problems within the private enrollment system. They used them to scale up the Aadhaar programme and now find that they can’t control them and are therefore chopping that limb off,” an anonymous former National Informatics Centre official told The Wire.

The Quint reports that UIDAI and CSC e-Governance Services launched a program for door-step Aadhaar service in January. It is unclear what will happen with this program, nor is it clear what “Village Level Entrepreneurs” (VLEs) who were encouraged to invest in biometric equipment can do to salvage their investments and employment. Senior CSC officials have asked UIDAI to reconsider its decision, according to The Wire.

A Supreme Court challenge of the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar program is currently ongoing.

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