States keen on making Aadhaar number 'ubiquitous'

Resident data hubs to make use of info to weed out fraud

Various state governments have begun to collect information over and above required by Aadhar to create local ‘resident data hubs’, say officials. The exercise has already begun in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and is expected to be replicated in other states eventually. Aadhar has officially maintained that it collects details of name, gender, birth date and address besides photograph, iris and fingerprint samples. In return, it issues a unique 16-digit number which can serve as proof of identity to Indian residents. But people, who queue up to enroll for the number, are being asked to provide additional information such as bank account and LPG connection numbers.

Eight fields of additional information – from banking details to NREGA job card numbers -- are being collected to set up Karnataka Resident Data Hub (KRDH), said M N Vidyashankar, principal secretary of e-governance, Karnataka.

Explaining KRDH, he said all the 52 departments of the state government maintained their own databases of people. As these databases exist in isolation without talking to each other, if a resident has a Mercedes and a BPL card as well, the system is not able to spot him currently.

“But once KRDH links all the 52 databases we would know that he owns a car registered in Koramangala RTO, has an LPG connection and also claiming subsidised food under PDS. We will catch him,” Vidyashankar said. The state government has already begun work on KRDH, which is likely to be completed by July 2012.

After an Aadhar number is issued, the system populates the number in different databases where the individual may appear. For example, once you get your Aadhar number, it would be automatically associated with your driving licence and LPG connection details in the government databases.

Government officials say eventually all documents used by Indian residents - driving licences, bank passbooks, passports, PAN cards - would have one more field to record the Aadhar number. “You can expect to get a letter from your bank manager asking for Aadhar number,” said Vidyashankar.

Similarly, the 100+ databases under the central government would also be linked using Aadhar.

They in turn can be linked to state resident data hubs to create a sweeping digital profile of individuals. “Aadhar is the seamless thread running across different databases,” says Vidyashankar.

Subsidy target

Government officials say by linking databases they would be able to target subsidies better to genuine beneficiaries and implement government programmes more efficiently.
It would also help private sector firms such as telecom operators meet Know Your Customer (KYC)  norms more easily.

“The practical use of this database would be many. At the airport instead of showing your identity card, you can just put provide your fingerprints and walk in,” says Vidyashankar.

But the effort to set up a national database has alarmed many experts who fear that besides shrinking subsidies these efforts lead to stepping up surveillance on people.
Noted lawyer Usha Ramanathan says, “Using corruption as an excuse they are putting everyone under surveillance. Not enough thought has been spared to keep this data safe from hackers, regulate access and prevent its misuse.”

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