The Unique Identification Authority of India, tasked with providing an online verifiable identification number to every person living in India, has enrolled over 38 crore residents of India to its biometric database.

The UIDAI, under former Infosys Chief Executive Officer & co-founder Nandan Nilekani, had started issuing Aadhaar numbers in September 2010 and has a target of issuing Aadhaar numbers to nearly half the country’s population by 2014.

Over 320 million Aadhaars have been issued so far, a presentation by UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani in Washington last week said.

The idea behind issuing identity numbers to residents of India is to issue a formal identity proof to Indians and help the government deliver services better.

Currently, various pilot projects, such as the distribution of old age pension in Tripura, public distribution system in Andhra Pradesh, security pension in Maharashtra and LPG subsidy in Karnataka, are being implemented with the help of Aadhaar.

The Aadhaar platform is also being used to push financial inclusion in un-banked areas of the country. Banks, who have signed up as Aadhaar enrollment agencies, can open a no frills Aadhaar linked account in the name of the applicant and bring them into the banking fold.

While the Aadhaar scheme has met with criticism from advocates of privacy who fear that the number can be the basis of profiling and discrimination, it has also been hailed as a game changer by many. In the absence of a legislation, defining the scope and privacy aspects of the project, the concerns of misuse of data are widespread.Aadhaar

While the National Identification Authority of India bill is still pending, the government has approved direct cash transfers to beneficiaries of government schemes through the Aadhaar platform.

A cost benefit analysis of the Aadhaar project said that it will return $13 billion in net benefits in 11 years. Assuming that the government spends Rs 37,187 crore on the project and integrating it with various schemes over 11 years starting from 2010-11, it will get a net benefit of Rs 72,620 crore (about $13 billion) over 11 years, the study by National Institute of Public Finance and Policy said.

NIPFP, Nov 2012
NIPFP, Nov 2012

Full presentation here.

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