UIDAI control shifted from Niti Ayog to IT ministry

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for issuing Aadhar cards in the country, has been shifted to ministry of IT and communications from the country’s top policy commission, NITI Aayog, reports the Press Trust of India. In the earlier UPA government, the UIDAI fell under the purview of the Planning Commission (which was scrapped by the BJP government for Niti Aayog). NITI Aayog is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its chairperson.

The report added that the decision to change to the ministry was taken keeping in mind the government’s ambitious ‘Digital India’ programme as the Aadhaar numbers were being linked with several services.

The Aadhar project by the UIDAI is has been fairly controversial in India as it was created in the absence of a privacy law and without Parliamentary approval. The Supreme Court had ordered the government to not link social benefits to Aadhaar, in September 2013. The West Bengal Assembly had also passed a resolution asking for the Central government to de-link Aadhar from the Direct Benefits Transfer scheme, specifically LPG subsidy, in December the same year.

However, the Finance Ministry said that it wants to continue with the Direct Benefits Transfer scheme – touted as a primary reason for setting up Aadhaar – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be linked to the Aadhaar number, as indicated by this Economic times report.

Aadhaar-linked schemes:

– In December 2014, the Indian Government had launched an Aadhaar-based digital life certificate called Jeevan Pramaan for pensioners. The new system, being developed by the DeitY consists of a software application which enables recording the pensioner’s Aadhaar number and biometric details from a mobile device or computer via a biometric reading device, to help establish that the pensioner was alive at the time of authentication, without them having to be physically present.

– Interestingly, the Women and Child Development ministry also suggested that Aadhaar should be used to authenticate profiles on matrimonial sites, so that the government knew who in India wants to get married, and could help them find partners.

Aadhaar numbers:

– UIDAI claims over 6 crore Aadhaar numbers have been assigned to citizens in Uttar Pradesh, out of a total population of 19.98 crore. UP was among the four new states UIDAI had undertaken Aadhaar enrollments in, after receiving approval for Phase 5 earlier this year.

– UIDAI then released its numbers for Aadhaar adoption in Bihar as well, and claims to have assigned 2 crore Aadhaar numbers to citizens, out of a total population of 10.41 crore in the state.

– Before the start of Phase 5 over 67.38 crore Aadhaar numbers had been issued and a total of Rs 4906 crore had been spent on the scheme till August 31, 2014. Earlier UIDAI had claimed it was generating 13-14 lakh Aadhaar numbers every day.