Fingerprinting or iris scan during 2011 census for UID scheme

Nandan Nilekani

The Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme, which is expected to roll out the first number in 12-18 months, will be first conferred on the beneficiaries of the the centre's flagship programme under the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act).

But the specific 16-digit number, which will be unique to an individual, will not confer on anyone any rights including citizenship, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani said.
He said "several thousand crore" will be required to fund the scheme but details of who exactly will do the financing are yet to be finalised. He dismissed reports that the project would cost about 1.5 lakh crore.
The UID is a concept designed mainly as an inclusive scheme for the benefit of the poor and the marginalised and for better targeting of anti-poverty and developmental programmes which are now plagued by inadequacies like duplicate and anonymous beneficiaries, he said in an interview to PTI.

To a volley of questions on issues like the possibility of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants getting the UID that could enable them secure Indian citizenship, Nilekani maintained that the UID does not confer benefits and it was for the agencies concerned to carry out due diligence in such matters.
"We have an agreement with the Home Ministry that when they do the enumeration as part of the National Population Register, they do intend to capture the biometrics using the standards that we will publish," he said.
Asked if his office will be part of the upcoming 2011 census, Nilekani, the Infosys co-founder who quit the IT firm to head the ambitious government project said, "I told you as part of NPR, they are going to collect data in our format."

Giving an overview into the kind of biometrics that would be captured for the project, Nilekani, working under the aegis of the Planning Commission, said a final scheme of things would be worked out in three to four months.

"We certainly think we will take all the ten finger prints. We will take a picture. The question we don't know whether at this scale of operation, 10 fingerprints will be adequate... we have not closed the option of an iris scan," he said when asked if his office was also looking at the possibility of taking iris scan rather than finger prints.

Nilekani said a biometrics committee under the leadership of Dr B K Gairola, Director General of National Informatics Centre, has been set up which will figure out the options.
"These are all designs choices that we will freeze in the next 3-4 months," he said.

Talking about the project, Nilekani said the UID number will give an identity to all people, especially the poor and marginalised and will help curb duplication of people in various development schemes of the government besides those who avail subsidies.
He said the task is very challenging as the largest database in the United States of this kind is of 120 million people and here it is about 1.2 billion people.
Nilekani said the first phase of the UID would roll out in about 18-24 months and his office aims to cover 600 million people in the next four years after that.

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