Govt denies fund cut for UID project

Activities not adversely affected for want of budgetary resources, says Nandan Nilekani

While Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee asserted that there would be no cut in funds for the UID project, Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Nandan Nilekani, said: “The UID activities are being carried out as per plan and are not adversely affected for want of budgetary resources.”

“The Ministry of Finance is fully committed to expeditious implementation of the UID project and all funds required for the smooth roll out of the project by the UID Authority will be provided,” Mukherjee said in a statement issued here.

Dismissing media reports that said the Finance Ministry had cut down the budget for the UID project drastically, the statement said: “This is not the correct position.”

The Centre in the Budget for 2010-11 has an allocation of Rs 1,900 crore for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It had allocated a sum of Rs 120 crore for the UID project in the Budget for 2009-10.

Corroborating the statement of the finance minister, Nilekani brushed aside media reports that suggested that the Centre had decided to slash the budget for the UID project from an estimated Rs 7,000 crore to only Rs 3,000 crore.

“This is not the correct position. In this regard, it is clarified that in Phase I, the UIDAI was provided funds for establishing the Authority and for conducting Proof of Concept studies,” a statement issued by Nilekani said. In Phase II, funds are being sought for commencing the pilot studies and the rolling out 10 crore UID numbers by March 2011.

The budget for issuing rest of the UID numbers and related project components will be brought before the government as part of Phase III in due course, Nilekani said.  “All funds required for the smooth roll out of the project by UID Authority are being provided,” he said.

The first set of UIDs is proposed to be issued between August 2010,  and February 2011. The aim of the project is to eliminate duplicate and fake identities. The UIDAI plans to issue 600 million UIDs over the next five years.

The UID project is estimated to offer IT companies a Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000-crore opportunity, as it sets to build an ecosystem around the project, comprising biometrics, databases, smartcards, storage and system integration.  The UID is currently tying up with various state governments and other agencies who will act as registrars and help in enrolling residents for the ambitious project.

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