India removes 384K Aadhaar biometric IDs

Government says a biometric exception clause was misused by some officers to enrol citizens who should not have been allowed under this provision.
Written by Mahesh Sharma, Correspondent

The Indian government has removed over 380,000 records from the country's biometric identification initiative, Aadhar, following previous reports of duplication and data misuse. 

During a session Wednesday with the Indian Parliament's house of representatives Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajiv Shukla revealed the latest details, pointing to the biometric exception clause. This clause was introduced to address "outliers", citizens whose iris or fingerprint could not be recognized by the system due to medical and physical conditions, manual labor, environment, or injuries.

An Aadhaar enrolment officer typically is tasked to photograph the lack of biometric proof, and record the demographic information, or another proof-of-identity.

Shukla said, to date, the Universal ID Authority of India (UIDAI)--which administers the project--has cancelled 384,237 Aadhaar numbers fraudulently generated under the biometric exception clause. He stressed the need to scrutinize all biometric exception enrolments.

In a press release, the Indian government said: "In keeping with UIDAI's commitment to achieve zero failure in enrolment, the enrolment client application has the provision to enrol persons with biometric exceptions. It was however noticed that this provision was misused by some operators to enrol residents who are not falling in the category of biometric exceptions."

The silver lining for the government is that this figure is identical to the number of ID cancellations in December when it was first revealed that three quarters of the IDs generated by the biometric exception clause were fraudulent.

Officers exploited the clause to make some money, since each successful enrolment and generation of Aadhaar number would yield 50 rupees (US$1.14) for the enrolment agency, according to a report by Hindustan Times.

Subsequently, the government required these agencies to get approval from a supervisor, or even a government official, to use the biometric exception clause.

The Aadhaar project has courted controversy. Earlier this month, it was revealed that two separate organizations were capturing biometric data of over 1 billion Indians, creating fresh doubts in the government's justification to catalog citizens.

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