Cumbersome task ahead of Aadhaar authentication

Officials sceptical about biometric-based linking of bank accounts

The authentication of bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers before December 31 seems to be an uphill task in Telangana given that it has been completed in just about 15 per cent of the total four crore plus accounts. The situation is also no better elsewhere in the country.

On July 14, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had issued a notification making it mandatory for customers to authenticate their Aadhaar card details that were submitted to banks. They must provide their finger prints or iris before December 31 or else their accounts will become inoperative. It was made mandatory under the amended Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2005, which came into effect from June 1.

Senior government officials who were apprehensive about the task being completed before the deadline unless it was extended fear the repetition of crowded scenes in banks witnessed earlier, immediately after demonetisation. Also, the account holders could face the trouble of having to visit banks multiple times if there was a mismatch in information on Aadhaar cards and bank accounts. There was always the danger of authentication being rejected due to minor spelling mistakes in names or surnames.

Moreover, most of the banks did not have copies of Aadhaar cards when the customers were enrolled. The mobile numbers given at the time of Aadhaar seeding may have also changed.

The change in mobile number will be a major hindrance if the customers chose to avail one-time password-based authentication if they could not visit banks due to old age or illness. The OTP with limited time validity was sent at the request of banks by UIDAI to mobile numbers or e-mail addresses of Aadhaar numbers (the latter option was unlikely to be used in rural areas) found in its database. The OTP with Aadhaar numbers will have to be submitted by account holders for online authentication and the same will be matched with the OTP generated by authority to authenticate.

Biometric-based authentication by finger prints or iris is the route available to customers who can visit banks but officials were sceptical because a data released by government on the operations of Mahatma Gandhi Natural Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Telangana showed that 36 per cent of Aadhaar-based authentication failed because of mismatch of biometrics. Ageing, manual labour, injuries and illness were commonly associated with mismatch. This was in spite of 95 per cent Aadhaar enrolment in the State.