India to Issue Unique Identity Number by Feb 2011: Nilekani

By February 2011, India will be the first country in the world to issue a unique identity number for each of its citizens, a number that will permit verification on-line, said an official.

“We will start issuing the unique number by February 2011,” Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said in New Delhi at a talk organised in the Parliament House Library.

According to Nilekani, giving a unique identification number to every resident will be a challenging task as UIDAI will try to ensure that no duplication occurs. The 30,000 crore project will cover the entire population of the country.

He said that biometrics will be used for preventing duplication and the authority will keep the same kind of information as is mentioned on voter I-card.

“We want to keep minimal information,” he said, adding that there will be no invasion of privacy.

The unique number will make online verification of identity of a citizen possible and India will become the first country to have such a system.

“No other country has done it. It will be gateway to open up public services to the people.”
He said that verification process is being done over and over again under the present system

Nilekani termed the project ‘massively complex’, saying that the authority will use state governments, banks, insurance companies and other such institutions as partners in enrolment.

The unique number will not give any rights or entitlements but can be later used for the purposes of citizenship, he said.

“It is a voluntary number. Even infants will get it,” he said, adding that identity of mother or guardian will be used alongside in case of children as biometrics are not fully developed in them.

Nilekani said the verification process will be kept pro-poor and inclusive.

“I think it is a very powerful and inclusive idea. It will help the poor have better access to public services and will be a great enabler for their financial inclusion. The flagship welfare schemes of the government can be made more efficient,” he said, adding that it will help strengthen national security, reducing fraud and increasing tax collection.

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