Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Nandan Nilekani on Tuesday said that 600 million people would be provided with biometric ID cards over a period of five and a half years.

Mr. Nilekani, who is on a visit to Patna to meet Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and discuss the implementation of the project in Bihar said, “we hope to begin issuing cards in Bihar within 12 to 18 months, i.e. by December 2010.”

“It is a positive sign that the government has given importance to e-governance,” said Mr. Nilekani.

During discussions with Mr. Kumar and the State Rural Development department, Mr. Nilekani lauded the State’s efforts to clamp down on corruption in schemes such as NREGA by the introduction of e-shakti cards and an e-shakti call centre.

Bihar’s strides in IT

“Bihar has made commendable strides in the IT sector, especially in the field of e-governance,” stated Mr. Nilekani, while pointing out that the State was also progressing very well in its registration process of individuals, which includes recording of personal information as well as biometric information like fingerprint and iris (eye) identification.

Mr. Nitish Kumar said that the “introduction of the unique ID card would be especially beneficial for the people of Bihar.”

Migration issue

“There is a lot of migration from Bihar as people frequently travel to other States for the purposes of work or study. So, a unique ID card would prove less cumbersome when one has to travel to other States,” said Mr. Kumar.

Mr. Kumar also said the card would immeasurably aid identification of people belonging to the BPL and the APL families, given the confusion prevailing over classification in the State.

“Accordingly, it would also aid in tracking down the number of people visiting during the Chhath and Id festivals in the State,” said Mr. Kumar.

Expressing satisfaction over the project’s progress so far, Mr. Nilekani said that the question remained as to how fast the first cards could be issued.