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Updated: October 18, 2009 11:48 IST

Unique Identification Number could become mandatory

PTI
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Unique Identification Authority of India Chairman, Nandan Nilekani during an interview in Chennai.
A file photo: M. Vedhan
THE HINDU Unique Identification Authority of India Chairman, Nandan Nilekani during an interview in Chennai. A file photo: M. Vedhan

The 16-digit Unique Identification number that the government proposes to give you could become mandatory for opening a bank account, getting your passport or even your driving licence, among others.

The Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme, which is expected to roll out the first number in 12-18 months, however, will not confer on anyone any rights, including citizenship, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani said.

Stressing that the UID at present is completely voluntary, Mr. Nilekani, the Infosys co-founder who quit the IT firm to head the ambitious government project, said the number will become “pervasive and ubiquitous” in future.

“When you to get a passport, they will say where is your UID number, when you go to get a driving licence, they will say where is your UID number, when you go to tax, they will say where is your UID number, you go to open a bank account, they will say where is your UID number. Sooner or later you will have to get your UID number,” Mr. Nilekani told PTI in an interview.

He said that in the coming years, all the above mentioned documents will start displaying the UID number, which proposes to weed out duplicate identities in the system, and hence the “number will become pervasive and ubiquitous. It will become embedded in all these documents.”

He said, “It is not mandatory but more applications will make it a prerequisite. So sooner or later your life becomes simpler if you have the number.”

Mr. Nilekani said talks are already on with various agencies and ministries and that “everybody is ready to partner with us on this and use our UID number in their database.”

He said that UID will also help to check black money and result in higher tax collections as it will become difficult to have duplicate accounts.

“Once the bank accounts start having the UID, then you can’t keep unaccounted money in the banking system. UID will sort of act as a check on keeping black money and all that. It will also strengthen security,” he said.

Mr. Nilekani said it will take “years and not one day” for the entire process to change. He said about 600 million of the about 1.2 billion population will be covered under the project in the next five years.

Asked by when could banks start having UID as a necessary feature to open accounts, he said, “that will be the choice of the individual agencies. We are providing an infrastructure. It is up to the ministry or the relevant departments to decide those things.”

Explaining further, he said, “For example, RBI is the authority to decide when UID will be used for bank accounts. We are just giving this facility. So they will decide saying from this date onwards, new bank accounts must have UID. From this date, people having old bank accounts must come and upgrade with UID. These are decisions taken by them. We can’t dictate those things.”

Asked how many agencies have agreed to partnering with his office, he said, “In fairness, everybody that we have met has agreed. They are all ready to come on board. All the agencies have agreed to be our partners.”

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