Unique Identification Authority of India Chairman Nandan Nilekani on Tuesday ruled out making AADHAR, the unique identity number of each individual, mandatory for all citizens, and said it would be optional.

During an interactive session at the Confederation of Indian Industry here, Mr. Nilekani pointed out the difficulties that would crop up if the number was made mandatory by service deliverers. If one did not have the number, one would be excluded from the benefit of that particular programme.

While stating that AADHAR would remain optional, Mr. Nilekani was confident that the number would have its relevance. He was in talks with the Reserve Bank of India to have the number accepted as proof of identity for opening bank accounts.

The proposed law seeking to grant statutory status to the UIDAI would seek to put in place a frame work to protect the data across the country from being misused, Mr. Nilekani said. He underlined the need for checks and balances to protect the data from both private and government users.

Replying to a question, he said the mandate was to issue the number only to citizens and not to outsiders, almost ruling out the possibility of entertaining the claims of NRIs. “Only if they have stayed for a requisite time period in India, can they can be given one.”

Asked whether the National Population Register too going in for biometric and iris image would not be an exercise in duplication, Mr. Nilekani said both this agency and the UIDAI were working together and would hold further discussions to seek help.

CII president Venu Srinivasan was in the chair.

Clarification

The caption of the photograph that went with the above had a detail of the CII President's Award being given to C.R. Swaminathan, chief executive, PSG Institutions. It led to a query as the text did not mention this.

At that function, Mr. Nilekani had also presented the CII President's awards to Mr. U.K. Sinha, Chairman – CII National Committee on Mutual Funds and CMD, UTI AMC; Mr. R.S. Sharma, Chairman – CII Public Sector Enterprises Council, and CMD, ONGC; Mr. P.S. Bhattacharya, Chairman – CII Sub Committee on Sustainable Development and CMD, Coal India Ltd; Mr. Harpal Singh, Immediate Past Chairman – CII Northern Region and Mentor and Chairman Emeritus, Fortis Healthcare Limited; Dr. Naushad Forbes, Immediate Past Chairman – CII Western Region and Director, Forbes Marshall Pvt Ltd. and Mr. Mukul Somany, Immediate Past Chairman – CII Eastern Region and Joint Managing Director, Hindustan National Glass and Industries Limited. Mr. C.R. Swaminathan is also Immediate Past Chairman – CII Southern Region and Chief Executive, PSG Institutions.

The CII President's Awards are an annual feature and presented to individuals “making an outstanding contribution to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)”.

The brand name of the Unique Identification number (UID) has now been changed to AADHAAR, and not AADHAR as mentioned in the heading and text of the report. AADHAAR, which translates into “foundation”, or “support”, is a word present across most Indian languages and is to be used in the branding and communication of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) programme across the country. The design, which has been selected as the logo for AADHAAR, is a sun in red and yellow, with a fingerprint traced across its centre.

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