Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Indian National UID Project

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The Central Government aims to distribute a unique identity card to every Indian citizen. The Indian National UID Project will be on the lines of the SSN (Social Security Number) in the United States. The seeds of the project were sown in 2002 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Named Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) then its main aim was to track every Indian citizen to counter the growing threat of terrorism and create a countrywide database of every Indian citizen which is the need of developed nation.

After lying in docks for many years the Centre has finally given a go ahead to the project. Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani has been appointed as a Cabinet Minister to head the project. Nilekani’s appointment met with cheers as he is well known for his Project Management skills having co-founded and headed one of India’s largest IT companies.

This will however be a neck breaking task for Nandan Nilekani and his team as they will have to work with different machineries of the Government. The problems are compounded by poverty, illiteracy and lack of basic infrastructure in many parts of the country. The federal system of government has meant that there is huge disparity between the functioning of various State Governments. There exists a wide gap between the economically flourishing and the backward States. Since the State Governments will have to play and pivotal role in the implementation of this project, to counter this disparity will be a major challenge.

  • The project aims to obviate need for multiple documentary proofs and will help in facilitating verification.
  • The database will serve as a National Population Register which will be updated periodically filling the loopholes in the present Census System.
  • It will be major tool in the Government’s hand to facilitate e-governance service which is the need of hour in a geographically vast country like India.
  • It will be major boost to the law and order system in the country and be an active tool in the fight against terrorism.
  • The database created will help in the implementation of the social schemes with focus on the economically weaker sections of the society.
  • The project aims at monitoring the financial system in the country. It will reduce tax and other financial frauds.

The UID card given to the people will have a micro processor chip with 16 KB of memory to store all the confidential information. The card will be made secure using ‘asymmetric key cryptography’ and ‘symmetric key cryptography’ which will prevent duplication and misuse of the card.

A national database for every individual will be maintained across multiple locations to prevent sabotage and risks from natural disasters. Every single move made by an Indian citizen from his birth to death can be tracked by the government. The project will integrate the educational, financial, health, travel and tax information of an individual into a single platform.

  • Arming people with a smart card in a country where more than one third of the population still lives below the poverty line.
  • Create a user friendly technology considering close to two-third of the population still resides in the rural or semi-urban areas.
  • Implement the project under a public service system infamous for corruption and inefficiency. The fact that the same system has failed to distribute EPIC cards to all the citizens in more than two decades will pose a major challenge.
  • Distribution of UID cards to authentic Indian citizens considering the amount of influx taking place from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
  • To overcome the potential privacy issues related with the project.
  • Overcome the religious, cultural and socio-economic biases which have been roadblocks in the proper distribution of the EPIC and ration cards.
  • To work in conjunction with the various State Governments with very little uniformity in their functioning.
When completed National UID will have one of the largest databases in the world. It will arm the Government to track every Indian citizen from the time to birth to his death and facilitate better governance. The biggest challenge of all for Nandan Nilekani and his team will be to implement this project to the best of its potential. Or else UID card might end up being another plastic card in the wallet.


murali July 3, 2010 at 11:52 PM  

As said it is a neck breaking task for Nandan Nilekani, but acheiving this task will unite the citizens of India, and it will avoid the threts and other illegal activities.As NRI's like us it will be usefull for tracking our database. So Indian Govt have to take necessary action and to implement this activity as soon as possible.
As ration card & Voter ID system was implemented as compulsory to all citizens of India, in the same way this UID project can be implemented and made successfull.But make sure the mistakes happened in ration card and voters ID should not happen in UID card. ALl THE BEST Mr.Nandan Nilekani.

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