Embroiled in a political battle, last month it seemed like India's Unique IDentification program (UID) would soon be shut. The UID program under former Infosys CEO, Nandan Nilekani, was mandated to enroll 200 Million Indian citizens; nearing the cap, there were questions being raised on the program's future. A parliamentary committee setup to look into the future of the program called it directionless. India's Home Minister, P Chidambaram, was not very keen on continuing the project being overseen by Planning Commission head Montek Singh Aluwalhia--a close aide to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Home Ministry wanted to push the National Population Register over UID claiming that the data collected by UIDAI was unreliable. The parliamentary committee found UID to be expensive too. All that changed last week when the parliament sanctioned a new round of funding for the UIDAI. The terms of the settlement between the Home Ministry & UIDAI are:
- UIDAI can continue hading out unique numbers to more 400 million citizens
- UIDAI will continue registering in 16 states it is operating in
- NPR enrollment will be mandatory while UID will be voluntary (will expand in the 16 states UID is operational)
- Information collected by NPR outweigh UID's (NPR will be the master database)
The project now has a total of ~$1.8 Billion, of which, $487 Million will be used towards recurring operational expenditure and the rest (1.3 Billion) will be utilized for non-recurring expenses. (Numbers are an approximation, converting INR crores to USD isn't fun.) One of the biggest concerns due to two parallel systems was the duplication of data. According to the Home Minister, P Chidambaram, if a citizen's biometric data has been collected by UIDAI, the NPR system will use that.
Regarding the safety concerns raised against UID data, the Home Minister has said that they are working with the UIDAI to review the data collection process.