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Bureaucratic turf war slowing India’s biometric efforts

The Registrar General of India (RGI) has completed the data entry of nearly 670 million people along with the biometrics gathering of 31 million people across the country upon orders from the government.

This comes after complaints from Home Minister P Chidambram reached the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that the National Population Register (NPR) project is “almost at a standstill” due to a bureaucratic turf war between the UIDAI and NPR.

UIDAI refuses to accept the NPR data being collected for de-duplication and for generation of Aadhaar numbers. The UIDAI is under the nodal authority of the Planning Commission while the RGI project is under the office of the Home Ministry. However, the government did later release a directive, which tells the UIDAI to accept the data from the NPR project of RGI.

The issue of upholding internal security after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks is what prompted the government to take a number of important decisions, one of which is the implementation of a unique ID number to each of its citizens. The NPR project was initiated in select coastal villages and then subsequently launched in a multi-phased manner in all coastal areas including other villages and towns. The project was launched on a priority basis as several other measures were also being adapted to enforce coastal security in the country.

For its part, the UIDAI was initially tasked to cover 100 million people, which was later raised to 200 million. Currently, a large part of the NPR project has already been completed along with the Census for 2011. More than 3.1 million cards, about 90 percent of the whole, have already been issued under the coastal NPR project. Digitization of the said measures is also taking place sooner than initially expected.

Will bureaucratic wrangling continue to slow down India’s national biometric ID project?

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