India: national ID card program unlikely to cover half of pupulation by 2013

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented data that 2 million unique ID cards have been issued. This makes grim outlook for covering half of 1.2 bilion population by 2013. The program called Aadhaar (foundation) has started in 2009 and is being run by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). One of the biggest hopes of the program is to effiecntly deliver benefits to the poor. Currently the welfare system is considered ineficient as it’s prone to leaks. Goods distribution is based on ration cards and are not secured against forgery which results in duplication. Only 15-20% of welfare goods and services actually reach the population in need. This hasn’t changed since Rajiv Ghandi premiership.
There is also commercial interest in national ID card. Huge population without any form of ID cannot use many services, with banking being the most prominent one. The ambitious plan to cover 600 milion people in 4 years might choke the system. Some other critics also argue that iliterate part of population can make litle use of the ID card and will remain easy target for fraud and speculation. At the present time Aadhaar program is not mandatory which doesn’t help it to become more popular. With the ID card being mandatory for the adult population it would have a chance to become a primary form of identification.

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