Clarifying that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) plans to issue a unique number to each citizen and not any identity card, its Chairman Nandan Nilekani on Wednesday hoped that the ambitious project would ensure social inclusion of the poor, marginalised and displaced population in the country, besides helping security agencies in maintaining law and order.

“The unique number will give a unique identity to every citizen, more importantly to poor and marginalised people of society, thereby helping governments to ensure their social inclusion and improve efficiency of the public delivery system. Though it will not be a panacea for everything, it will create a foundation infrastructure that will help bring change [in society],” Mr. Nilekani said in an interaction with the media briefing organised by the Indian Women Press Corps.

Informing that the first set of 16-digit unique identity numbers would be issued in the next 18 months, Mr. Nilekani said the UIDAI would issue UID to 60-crore citizens in the next 5-6 years. “The challenge will be the enrolment of the poor for the UID numbers. Then there are technical challenges like safety and protection of database, and safeguarding privacy of individuals,” he said.

Terming the task of providing UID numbers to over 100-crore Indians as “humongous,” he said soon a consultant would be appointed who would take care of all the formalities for the bidding process for selecting a ‘managed service provider,’ which will take care of the centralised database.

Mr. Nilekani said the UIDAI would give every citizen a UID number, either through direct enrolment or to requests forwarded by any other government agency like those issuing PAN card, passports, driving licence, ration cards and job cards; and these UID numbers will be mentioned in the document (like passport, driving licence, PAN card).

Hinting that in future, the UID number could become mandatory for people availing themselves of certain services and facilities being provided by the government or private agencies [like mobile SIM cards], Mr. Nilekani said they would start on a clean slate, collecting and compiling their own data and not use data from any other source.

“However, government authorities will be able to use biometric details and other information for verification process, for which we might fix some minimum charge to make the project sustainable,” he added.

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