The Unique Identification Authority of India chief Nandan Nilekani on Thursday asserted that the authority set up for issuing national identity cards was working under the powers delegated by the Prime Minister.
“My powers have been delegated by the Prime minister,” Mr. Nilekani said when asked whether the authority was on a collision course with the Planning Commission.
“We are an attached office of the Planning Commission and by series of government orders, several authorities have been delegated to us,” he said.
The issue came up after Planning Commission reportedly expressed concerns that the UIDAI is departing from set government procedures and suggested a relook into its structures.
The Commission reportedly in a communication to the Finance Ministry said the UIDAI has not got any of its financial proposal examined by the panel’s secretary or financial adviser.
The plan panel had also suggested to the Finance Ministry that a full time financial adviser be deputed in the authority.
Explaining further, Mr. Nilekani said: “(The Director General of the UIDAI) Ram Sewak Sharma’s powers are delegated by the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. The powers of Financial Adviser K. Ganga (of the UIDAI) have been delegated by the Expenditure Secretary.”
“We are working within the powers granted to us. If somebody feels that power should be different, then that is a different matter,” he pointed out.
On the issue of transparency, Mr. Nilekani said: “We follow every government process and procurement procedures to the key. We set the highest standards of transparency and integrity in our operations.”
“We are working in the government system. We have tight financial controls. Everything is on our website,” Mr. Nilekani added.
When asked whether there were any problems related to availability of funds, he said: “We are quite happy with finances. We have absolutely no issues. We are authorised to enrol 200 million people and beyond that the Cabinet will take a decision“.
About using iris scan for issuing the unique identity number, Mr. Nilekani said it is a closed issue because the decision was taken one-and-a-half years ago.
“Iris scan is absolutely imperative. People who work in the fields or other manual labour, the likelihood of their finger prints eroding is there. The cost of Iris is marginal at about Rs. 5 per person and Rs. 500 crore for entire project,” he added.