The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was set up by the Government of India in January 2009,as an attached office under aegis of Planning Commission vide its a gazette notification. The UIDAI is mandated to assign a 12-digit unique identification (UID) number (termed as Aadhaar) to all the residents of India. As per the notification, the UIDAI has been given the responsibility to lay down plan and policies to implement UID scheme, to own and operate the UID database and be responsible for its updation and maintenance on an ongoing basis. The implementation of UID scheme entails generation and assignment of UID to residents; defining mechanisms and processes for interlinking UID with partner databases; operation and management of all stages of UID life cycle; framing policies and procedures for updation mechanism and defining usage and applicability of UID for delivery of various services among others. The number is linked to the resident's basic demographic and biometric information such as photograph, ten fingerprints and two iris scans, which are stored in a centralised database.
The UIDAI data center is located at Industrial Model Township (IMT), Manesar.
Starting with issuing of first UID in September 2010, the UIDAI has been targeting to issue UID - a unique 12 digit Aadhaar number to all the residents that (a) is robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and (b) can be verified and authenticated in an easy and cost-effective way online anywhere, anytime. The Government of India in a notification dated 16 December 2010 recognizes the letter issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) containing details of name, address and Aadhaar number, as an officially valid document. It neither aims to replace any existing identity cards nor it is a cognizance of citizenship. Aadhaar neither confers citizenship nor guarantees rights, benefits, or entitlements. Aadhaar is a random number which never starts with a 0 or 1, and is not loaded with profiling or intelligence into identity numbers that makes it insusceptible to fraud and theft. The unique ID would also qualify for as a valid ID while availing various government services, like a LPG connection or subsidised ration or kerosene from PDS or benefits under NSAP or pension schemes, e-sign, digital locker, Universal Account Number (UAN) under EPFO; and for some other services, like a SIM card or opening a bank account. According to the UIDAI website, any Aadhaar holder or service provider can verify an Aadhaar number for its genuineness through a user-friendly service of UIDAI called Aadhaar Verification Service (AVS) available on its website. Also, a resident already enrolled under National Population Register is not required to enrol again for Aadhaar.
As of 15 December 2016, 1.09 billion Aadhaar numbers have been issued in the project (85% of estimated 2015 population).
Percentage figures are with respect to 2015 estimated population.
As of 26 November 2016,1.007 billion Aadhaar numbers have been authenticated.
From the beginning of the project in 2009 through November 2016, the government spent a total of ₹82.772 billion (US$1.2 billion) on the Aadhaar project.
The budgeted amount for the project was reduced to ₹9.990 billion (US$150 million) in FY16-17 from ₹20.00 billion (US$300 million) in FY15-16, given the high enrolled percentage.
In 1999 after the Kargil war, the Kargil Review Committee, headed by security analyst K. Subrahmanyam, was formed to study the state of national security. It submitted its report to the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 7 January 2000. Among its various recommendations, was the proposal that citizens in villages in border region be issued identity cards on a priority basis, later such ID cards should be issued to all people living in border states.
A Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by L. K. Advani, was formed to study the recommendations and examine possible implemenatation. The GoM submitted its report in May 2001. It had accepted the recommendation for an id card. The report said the a "multi-purpose National Identity Card" project would be started soon. The card would be first issued in border villages and then elsewhere. In late September 2001, the Ministry of External Affairs proposed that a mandatory national identity card be issued. This announcement came after reports that some people had multiple Indian passports with different details. This was attributed to the lack of computerisation between the passport centres. In December 2003, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2003 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by L. K. Advani. It primarily aims to provide various rights to persons of Indian origin. However, the bill also introduced the Clause 14 (a) that said "The Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue national identity card to him."
The UIDAI was established on 28 January 2009 after the Planning Commission issued a notification. On 23 June 2009, Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys, was appointed by the then government to head the project. He was given the newly created position of the Chairman of UIDAI which was equivalent to a Cabinet minister. In April 2010, the logo and the brand name Aadhaar was launched by Nilekani. In May 2010, Nilakani said he would support a legislation to protect the data held by the UIDAI.
In July 2010, UIDAI published a list 15 of agencies which were qualified to provide training to personnel to be involved in the enrollment process. It also published a list of 220 agencies which were qualified to take part in the enrollment process. Before this, the project had been only 20 states and with LIC of India and State Bank of India as qualified registrars. This announcement introduced several private firms. It was estimated that to achieve the target of enrolling 40% of the population in two years, 31,019 personnel would be required and 155 training centres would be required to train them. It was also estimated that 4,431 enrollment centres and 22,157 enrollment stations would have to be established.
On 7 February 2012, the UIDAI launched an online verification system for Aadhar numbers. Using the system banks, telecom companies and government departments could enter an Aadhaar number and verify if the person was a resident of India.
On 26 November 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched an Aadhaar-linked direct benefit transfer scheme. The project aimed to eliminate leakages in the system by directly transferring the money to the bank account of the recipient. The project was to be introduced in 51 districts on 1 January 2013 and then slowly expanded to cover all of India.
In late November 2012, a former Karnataka High Court judge, Justice K S Puttaswamy, and a lawyer, Parvesh Khanna, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the government in the Supreme Court of India. They contented that the government was implementing the project without any legislative backing. In December 2011, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, led by Yashwant Sinha, rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in its then present form and suggested modifications. It termed the project "unethical and violative of Parliament's prerogatives". On 23 September 2013, the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that the government cannot deny a service to anyone who does not possess Aadhaar, as it is voluntary.
In late September 2013, following the Supreme Court verdict, Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajeev Shukla said that the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 would be attempted to be passed in the winter session of the Parliament. On 9 October 2013, the National Payments Corporation of India launched an Aadhaar-based remittance system. Using the system funds could be transferred to any Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, if only the Aadhaar number was known. It was announced that an SMS could be used for amounts up to ₹5,000 (US$74) and for amounts over that a mobile bank app could be used. By this time around 44 million Aadhaar numbers had been issued.
In March 2014, Nandan Nilekani resigned as the Chairman to contest in the general election on an Indian National Congress nomination from Bangalore South. His responsibilities taken over by 1981-batch IAS officer Vijay Madan, who was given an extension of his term as the director-general and mission director by the government. Nilekani lost to Ananth Kumar.
Before elections in March 2014, BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi and general secretary Ananth Kumar had criticised the project for issuing Aadhaar to illegal immigrants. Lekhi pointed out that project continued to be run even after a parliamentary committee voted againist and despite the Supreme Court order. Subramanian Swamy, another BJP leader and economist, said that UIDAI was a useless scheme and Nilekani should be prosecuted for wasting resources by hiring US firms.
On 10 June 2014, the new government disbanded four Cabinet Committees to streamline the decision making process; among them was also the Cabinet Committee on Aadhaar. Also in June 2014, the IT Department held a meeting with the secretaries of the states to receive feedback on the project.
On 1 July 2014, the former UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani met with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to convince them of the project's merits. On 5 July 2014, Modi announced that his government retain the project and asked official to look into linking the project with passports. The Budget, allotted ₹20.3964 billion (US$300 million) to the project for the fiscal year 2014-15. It was a substantial increase from the previous year's ₹15.50 billion (US$230 million). Also in July, it was reported that UIDAI would hire an advertising agency and spend about ₹300 million (US$4.5 million) on an advertising campaign.
On 10 September 2014, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave approval to the Phase-V of the UIDAI project, starting the enrollment process in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. The Union Cabinet allocated ₹12 billion (US$180 million) to the project to reach the target of 1 billion enrollment by 2015 end.
On 18 June 2015, in a high-level review meeting on the progress of the UID project and DBT scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the officials to accelerate the delivery of benefits and expand the applications of the Aadhaar (UID) platform. He also asked them to examine the possibility of incentivizing the states, through a one-time sharing of a portion of the savings. It was reported that the government was saving up to 14-15% in the direct benefit transfers of subsidies on LPG to the beneficiaries through Aadhaar.
Finding the experience with DBT scheme in LPG "very encouraging" with a reported savings to the tune of ₹127 billion (US$1.9 billion) to the public exchequer this year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 5 July 2015, said, "If we can realize the government's JAM—Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile—vision we can ensure that money goes directly and more quickly into the pockets of the poor and from the savings we achieve, we can put even more money for the poor. If we can be careful in our design and implementation, we can extend DBT to other commodities, so that the poor get more money to spend for their upliftment."
In March 2015, the Aadhaar-linked DigiLocker service was launched, using which Aadhaar-holders can scan and save their documents on the cloud, and can share it with the government officials whenever required without any need to carry them.
During the budget presentation on 29 February 2016, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that a bill will be introduced within a week to provide legislative support to the Aadhaar. On 3 March 2016, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Parliament as a money bill by Jaitley. The decision to introduce it as a money bill was criticised by the opposition parties. Ghulam Nabi Azad, an INC leader, wrote in a letter to the Jaitley that the ruling party, BJP was attempting to bypass the Rajya Sabha, as they did not have the majority in the upper house. A money bill is only required to pass in the lower house Lok Sabha. Tathagata Satpathy of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) raised concerns that the project could be used for mass surveillance or ethnic cleansing in the future.
On 11 March 2016, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016, was passed in the Lok Sabha. During the Rajya Sabha debate on 16 March, Sitaram Yechury of CPI-M said that bill should not have been passed when the issue right to privacy was still in the Supreme Court. On 16 March 2016, the bill was returned to the Lok Sabha by the Rajya Sabha with some suggested amendments. The Lok Sabha was free to accept or reject the amendments. But, Lok Sabha rejected the amendments.
Applications and related projects
It is used for unique identification. Nowadays it became mandatory for all our basic needs. In states like Tamilnadu, it is made mandate for providing ration. Also it is used for forensic purposes since it is a bio-metric identification
Aadhaar project has been linked to some public subsidy and unemployment benefit schemes like the domestic LPG scheme and MGNREGS. In these Direct Benefit Transfer schemes, the subsidy money is directly transferred to a bank account which is Aadhaar-linked.
On 29 July 2011, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas signed a memorandum of understanding with UIDAI. The Ministry had hoped the ID system would help them eliminate loss of the subsidised kerosene and LPG. In May 2012, the government announced that it will begin issuing Aadhaar-linked MGNREGS cards. On 26 November 2012, a pilot project was launched in 51 district.
Under the original policy for liquified petroleum gas subsidies, the customers bought gas cylinders from retailers at subsidised prices, and the government compensated companies for their losses. Under the current Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL), introduced in 2013, customers had to buy at the full price, and the subsidy would be then directly credited to their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. This scheme, however, did not take off, as in September 2013, a Supreme Court order put a halt on it. Subsequently, GOI constituted a committee to review the "Direct Benefits Transfer for LPG Scheme" to study the shortcomings in the scheme and recommend changes. The DBTL scheme was modified later as PAHAL by the new government in November 2014. Under PAHAL, subsidies could be credited to one's bank account even if the one did not have an Aadhaar number. Official data show that cooking gas consumption during the January–June period grew at a slower 7.82%, nearly four percentage points less than 11.4% growth in the same period last year.
The PAHAL scheme has covered 118.9 million of the 145.4 million active LPG consumers till March, as stated by the Petroleum Minister in the Parliament. Thereby, the DBT has become a "game changer" for India, claimed the Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry, Government of India, Arvind Subramanian, for in case of LPG subsidy, DBT had resulted in a 24% reduction in the sale of subsidized LPG, as "ghost beneficiaries" had been excluded. The savings to the government were to the tune of ₹127 billion (US$1.9 billion) in 2014-15. The success of the modified scheme helped fuel marketing companies save almost ₹80 billion (US$1.2 billion) from November 2014 to June 2015, said oil company officials. The DBT for the public distribution system (PDS) will be rolled out in September 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for integration of all land records with Aadhaar at the earliest, emphasising at his monthly PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) meeting on 23 March 2016 that this is extremely important to monitor the successful implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana or crop insurance scheme.
In July 2014, Aadhaar-enabled biometric attendance systems (AEBAS) was introduced in government offices. The system was introduced to check late arrival and absenteeism of government employees. The public could see the daily in and out of employees on the website attendance.gov.in. However, in October 2014, the website was closed to the public but is now (as on March 24, 2016) active and open to public access. The employees use the last four digits (last eight digits for government employee registring as on August, 2016) of their Aadhaar number and their fingerprints, for authentication.
In November 2014, it was reported the Ministry for External Affairs was considering making Aadhaar a mandatory requirement for passport holders. In February 2015, it was reported that people with Aadhaar number will get their passports issued within 10 days, as it allowed the verification process to be easier by checking if applicant had any criminal records in the National Crime Records Bureau database. In May 2015, it was announced that the Ministry of External Affairs was testing the linking of passports to the Aadhaar database.
In October 2014, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology said that they were considering linking Aadhaar to SIM cards. In November 2014, the Department of Telecom asked all telecom operators to collect Aadhaar from all new applicants of SIM cards. On 4 March 2015, Aadhaar-linked SIM cards began to be sold in some cities in a pilot project. The purchase could activate the SIM at the time of purchase by submitting his Aadhaar number and pressing his fingerprints on a machine. It is part of the Digital India plan. The Digital India project aims to provide all government services to citizens electronically and is expected to be completed by 2018.
In July 2014, Employees' Provident Fund Organisation of India (EPFO) began linking provident fund accounts with Aadhaar numbers. In November 2014, EPFO became an UIDAI registrar and began issuing Aadhaar number to provident fund subscribers. In December 2014, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya clarified that an Aadhaar number was not necessary for any provident fund transaction.
In August 2014, Prime Minister Modi directed the Planning Commission of India to enroll all prisoners in India under UIDAI.
In December 2014, it was proposed by the Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi that Aadhaar should be made mandatory for men to create a profile on matrimonial websites, to prevent fake profiles. In July 2015, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) called a meeting of meeting of various matrimonial sites and other stakeholders discuss the use of Aadhaar to prevent fake profile and protect women from exploitation.
On 3 March 2015, the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) of the Election Commission was started. It aims to link the Elector's Photo Identity Card (EPIC) with the Aadhaar number of the registered voter. It is aims to create an error-free voter identification system in India, especially by removing duplications.
In Hyderabad region of Telangana state, Aadhaar numbers were linked to ration cards to remove duplicate ration cards. The project was started in July 2012 and was carried out despite the 2013 Supreme Court order. More than 63,932 ration cards in the white category, and 2,29,757 names were removed from its database in the drive between July 2012 and September 2014. In August 2012, Andhra Pradesh, asked citizens to surrender illegal ration cards, before it began to link them with Aadhaar numbers. By September 2014, 15 lakh illegal ration cards had been surrendered. In April 2015, the state of Maharashtra began enrolling all school students in the state in the Aadhaar project to implement the Right to Education Act properly.
Electronic-Know Your Customer (e-KYC) using Aadhar card is also being introduced to activate mobile connections instantly to check Aadhar Card Status.
In October 2010, R. Ramakumar, an economist at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, wrote in an editorial for The Hindu that the project was being implemented without any cost-benefit or feasibility studies to ensure whether the project will meet its stipulated goals. He also pointed the government was obscuring the security aspects of Aadhaar and focusing on the social benefit schemes. He quoted former chief of the Intelligence Bureau Ajit Doval who had said that originally Aadhaar aimed to weed out illegal aliens.
In March 2011, Rajanish Dass of IIM Ahmedabad's Computer and Information Systems Group, published a paper titled "Unique Identity Project in India: A divine dream or a miscalculated heroism". Dass claimed that even if enrollment is voluntary, it is being made mandatory by indirect means. He pointed out that essential schemes like the National Food Security Act, 2013 was being linked to UIDAI. He also pointed the feasibility of a project of this size had not been studied and raised concerns about the quality of the biometric data being collected. He cited another researcher Usha Ramanathan that UIDAI will ultimately have to become profit-making to sustain itself.
On 9 November 2012, the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy published a paper titled A cost-benefit analysis of Aadhaar. The paper claimed that by 2015-16 the benefits of the project will surpass the costs, and by 2020-21 the total benefit would be ₹251 billion (US$3.7 billion) against the total expenditure of ₹48.35 billion (US$720 million). The benefits would come from plugging leakages in various subsidy and social benefit schemes.
In March 2016, the International Institute for Sustainable Development released a report that the benefit from Aadhaar-linked LPG subsidy scheme for 2014-15 was ₹140 million (US$2.1 million) and for 2015-16 was ₹1.209 billion (US$18 million). This sum was much lower than the number stated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Lok Sabha. He had said in March 2016 that the government had saved ₹150 billion (US$2.2 billion) from the scheme. The paper said that the government was also including the savings from the efforts of oil marketing companies (OMCs) prior to the introduction of Aadhaar. The method used by the OMCs to weed out duplicates and ghost customers was 15–20 times more effective than the Aadhaar-based method.
In late November 2012, a former Karnataka High Court judge, Justice K. S. Puttaswamy, and a lawyer, Parvesh Khanna, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the government in the Supreme Court of India. They had contended that government was implementing the project without any legislative backing. They pointed out that the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 which introduced in the Rajya Sabha was still pending. They said that since UIDAI was running on only an executive order issued on 28 January 2009, it cannot collect biometric data of citizens as it would be a violation of privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.
On 23 September 2013, the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that "no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the authority making it mandatory". The court noted that the government had said that Aadhaar is voluntary.
On 2 February 2015, the Supreme Court asked the new government to clarify its stance on the project. This was in response to a new PIL filed by Mathew Thomas, a former army officer. Thomas had claimed that government was ignoring previous orders while pushing ahead with the project and that the project was unconstitutional as it allowed profiling of citizens. The government in a reply on 12 February said that it will continue the project. On 16 July 2015, the government requested the Supreme Court to revoke its order, saying that it intends to use Aadhaar for various services. On 21 July 2015, the Court noted that some states were insisting on Aadhaar for benefits despite its order.
On 11 August 2015, the Supreme Court directed the government to widely publicise in print and electronic media that Aadhaar is not mandatory for any welfare scheme. The Court also referred the petitions claiming Aadhaar is unconstitutional to a Constitutional Bench.
In 2013 Goa, the CBI was trying to solve the case of a rape of a schoolgirl. It approached a Goa local court saying that they had acquired some fingerprints from the scene and they could be matched with the UIDAI database. The court asked UIDAI to hand over all data of all persons in Goa to CBI.
The UIDAI appealed in the Bombay High Court saying that accepting such a request would set precedent for several more such requests. The High Court rejected the argument and on 26 February 2014 in an interim order directed Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) to study technological capability of the database to see if it can solve such a crime. The UIDAI then appealed in the Supreme Court. It argued that the chance of a false positive was 0.057% and with 600 million people in its database it would result in hundreds of thousands of false results.
The Supreme Court, on 24 March 2014, restrained the central government and the Unique Identification Authority of India from sharing data with any third party or agency, whether government or private, without the consent of the Aadhaar-holder in writing. Vide another interim order dated 16 March 2015, the Supreme Court of India has directed the Union of India and States and all their functionaries should adhere to the order passed by this court on 23 September 2013. It observed that some government agencies were still treating Aadhaar as mandatory and asked all agencies to issue notifications clarifying that it was not mandatory.
In September 2013, the Delhi Development Authority accepted a complaint from the India Against Corruption activist group and cancelled a land allotment to UIDAI. The land was previously owned by BSNL, and MTNL had also laid claims on it. It was of an estimated ₹9 billion (US$130 million) value, but it had been allotted to UIDAI at a very cheap rate.
The issue of constructing UIDAI HQs and UIDAI Regional Office, Delhi's building was resolved with Department of Telecom (DoT). Following which, the Ministry of Urban Development has issued a notification on 21 May 2015 clearing the titles of the land in favour of UIDAI including land use.
In an August 2009 interview with the Tehelka, former chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Ajit Doval, said that it was originally intended to flush out illegal immigrants, but social security benefits were later added to avoid privacy concerns. In December 2011, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, led by Yashwant Sinha, rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 and suggested modifications. It expressed objections to the issuing of Aadhaar numbers to illegal immigrants. The Committee said that the project was being implemented in an unplanned manner and by bypassing the Parliament.
In May 2013, deputy director general of UIDAI, Ashok Dalwai, admitted that there had been some errors in the registration process. Some people had received Aadhaar cards with wrong photographs or fingerprints. According to Aloke Tikku of Hindustan Times, some officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had criticised the UIDAI project in September 2013. The unnamed IB officials have said that Aadhaar number cannot be treated as a credible proof of residence. As under the liberal pilot phase, where a person claims to live was accepted as the address and recorded.
Gajanan Khergamker in a commentary in Tehelka has argued that the Aadhaar threatens to legitimise the illegals living in the country. He said that frequently local bureaucrats and politicians give away documents like ration cards to illegal immigrants for political or personal gains. He pointed out that the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of US prohibits discrimination based on collected biomedical data, but India has no such safeguards for its citizens. He said the data being collected was worth fortunes and India was a "sitting duck" without proper protective legislation.
The Aadhaar and the similar National Population Register (NPR) projects have been reported to be having conflicts. In January 2012, it was reported that UIDAI will share its data with NPR and NPR will continue to collect its own data. In January 2013, then Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that Aadhaar was not an identity card but a number, while NPR was necessary for national security purposes. The 2013 Supreme Court order did not affect the NPR project as it was not linked to any subsidy.
In July 2014, a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of merging the two projects Aadhaar and NPR, or making them complementary. The meeting was attended by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Law and Justice and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of State for Planning Rao Inderjit Singh. However, later in the same month, Rao Inderjit Singh told the Lok Sabha that no plan to merge the two projects has been made.