Questions for Nandan Nilekani: Chairman of UIDAI

Dear Nandan,

The central government recently appointed you, a Bangalorean, as the head of the ambitious Universal Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and you accepted. Congratulations. Please address one key question to set the right expectations amongst citizens early on.

In your book, Imagining India, you have rightly recognised that we are a country full of random, disconnected procedures for IDs and ‘ID proofing’. Everything from passports, to phone lines to ration cards to driver licenses, voter rolls, water connections, BPL cards, gas connections, bank accounts and more involves citizens interacting with a local, state or central government agency, PSU or private utilities. A change of address can be a nightmare. And as many, including yourself have noted, our government departments work in isolation, each having its own database with no linkage to other government databases.

The databases are usually not in good shape – problems of data entry, duplicate entries, dead entries, and more. Voter rolls and BPL cards are examples. More importantly, citizens have always had to deal with inconvenience when getting IDs. Given all this, the argument for a universal ID system cutting through crawling bureaucracies and dusty government departments was always going to have appeal, and emotive appeal even.

Our question

From what we can gather, in the first phase, the UIDAI is going to focus on helping central government benefit schemes better target hundreds of millions of citizen beneficiaries. This is laudable, but what about state government and local government schemes?

You know well that plenty of transactions at the local level are administered by state and local governments. These could definitely benefit from a universal ID too. In your book, you proposed a cross-cutting approach: whenever a citizen approaches any government agency (local, state, national), PSU, bank et cetera, a Universal ID for them could be issued. Are you going to start off with a pilot-like focus on central government schemes or are you going to straight away go with a multi-level programme across centre, state and local?

It may be worthwhile clearing this up right away. Wish you all the best.

About Editors 17 Articles

Editorial team consists of Shree DN, Subramaniam Vincent and Meera K.

14 Comments

  1. First of all it’s a great initiative that could prove to be a very effective. I am one of those citizens who enrolled 5 months ago at Mysore to get the UID card. My question is not why i haven’t got the card. but my question to neelakeni sir is what level of transparency has been maintained in letting the people know what is the status of thier enrollment? With Nandan sir coming from a high profile IT background, I am disappointed that the portal that has been setup to know the status of the enrollments works very less frequently. forget abt the slow internet connections, i use a 2MBPS internet connection and still get to see portal not found message atleast ten times a day. from last 1 month i have been trying to verify the status, and only 2 times i hv been lucky to see the search portal and only once i am able to get through the search process for the enrollment status and all i get to see is that the request has not reached the uid center yet!! i wouldn’t have bothered to post if this was just like an other govermnet website, but for a high profile IT legend like neelakeni heading the uid project, it’s more than disappointing that not even the portal to check the status can effectively be used by the public.

  2. What is it unique about the uidai for a normal person. in all these years there are at least 20 to 25 different identity proof requirement differentiating from state to state or a particular job.
    For a lame person he would like to know as to how he could be benefitted from this adhar card (uidai).
    is this card going to supercede all other identity doc/proof.
    Every individual has more or less given his personal data a number of times for varfious reasons like driving licence, passport , voter id regn, pan card, domicile and so on.

    could someone give one simple reason as to why again stand in the que for hours and repeat the same procedure as in the past. what is the guarantee that this data collection is the last one.

    how could you eradicate poverty /how could you remove reservation/ how could you improve education system/ how do you find the very same person is of indian origin/ and most importantly how do we delete the
    gunda raaj from bureaucracy and politics. does this card ensures a clean society , good policts, addressing real issues of the nation.
    forms of adhar are being distributed at rs.10/- each.

    what is the use of all the computerisation when we have to stand is queues for all the petty things of our daily life.

    madhuri chinchwad pune

  3. I want to write to Sh Nandan Nilekani about the recent UIDAI. Hope, will be able to reach him through this. Thanks..Pramod

  4. Dear Nilekani
    This is to point out the deficiencies in the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) . This is being implemented first time in Goa . Your teams have come with laptops, scanners and camera in my village today . However the identification slips have not been handed over to most houses and it appears that the same are handed over to some panchayat persons . I could see most local villagers moving around to locate the slips and finally we were told to come tomorow by which time the teams will move out.
    In this way the cards are being made available to only vote banks only who will be eligible to benefits thereof . This will defeat the primary purpouse to cut off the leakages in the implementation of schemes . The godfathers will now be able to tap in instantaneouslly since the covered section is indebted to them. In that repect having contracted teams was a correct step. However a mechanism to be evolved to avoid above patronization . Perhaps incomplete coverage has to be made a major default liability of the local administration who have worked on this part so they do not try such stunts .
    I was in Powai H-2 ,you were roomate of my classmate Khedkar in year 1976-78.Your project will do more to bring India up than anything else by ensuring 100% of resources go where targetted and should succeed fully and in full respect.
    regards

  5. Dear Mr Nilekani
    Your Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is being first implemented in Goa and I will point out the pitfalls on ground implementation. In my village your teams have come with laptops,scanners, etc. However the locals have not been served the identification slips . It appears these were handed over to some panchayat persons . Appears that the same are dolled out to vote banks only .I saw other original villagers being shunted around and told to come next day by which time the teams will pack up and go . So only vote banks will have your cards and be eligible to benefits thereof.This manipulation could be dissuaded if state government has to ensure 100% coverage of the population cross-checked some way.
    I was in IIT Powai H-2 .You were roomate of my colleague Khedkar in H-6 in 1976-78. It is important your UIDAI should succeed so that the leakages which defeat the good intentions of schemes can no longer take place. With what is happening in Goa we might end up with instantaneous manipulated leakages instead organized by godfathers .The card should come as a right of the citizen and not favour doled by a politician so as to perpetuate godfather culture . The poor have to be insulated specially. In this regard having contracted teams less prone to manipulation was a right step by you.
    Regards

  6. Dear Mr. Nilekani,

    I read in the news that the cost of the UID project is about 2000 crore rupees. Which when divided by the population of 1 billion, comes to Rs 20 per head. Instead of spending that money from any other fund, why don’t you collect this Rs 20 or 25 per head from all citizens even while collecting the census data? I think this will not be a burden even on the low income groups, considering that this is a one-time payment in return to a huge life-long benefit they will derive from the UID card.

    Thanks,
    A sincere admirer

  7. To
    Mr nandan nilekani
    sir,
    i belong from a distant village,and not have a good knoledge of english,but i want to say something about UIDAI.
    i have not all details about UIDAI.
    i want to know after essuing this card
    what will happning with votar_id card
    or pasport etc.?I think they all remain same as today.
    I want to tell that after essuing this card if i should have to go one more time for prepareing votar_id or pasport than this card is useless.
    Today in rural aria the id_card is ration_card.aproximatly all id proof given by this card,then if you are going to issu “UNIVERSAL” id_card than it should be more precious and valuble among these cards.After getting this card no card should be neccesary.

  8. Dear sir,
    i had read your article in “THE HINDU” dated 13-nov-2009 for your new idea of UIDAI. Sir as you mentioned to provide biometric recognition which is related to thumb impression and iris recognition.
    sir as we think that along with the age THE EIGEN VALUE OF FACE AND THUMB CHANGES SO OUR SUGGESTION FOR YOUR IDEA IS TO PLEASE INCULDE DNA FINGERPRINTING BECAUSE IT IS THE ONLY THING WHICH WIL NOT EVER CHANGE WITH AGE AND IT IS UNIQUE FOR EACH PERSON
    sir we are an engineering student of final year computer science and we also deal with this idea as our MAJOR PROJECT since 2 months ago
    WE FEEL ACCOLADE TO RECEIVE YOUR RESPONCE.
    THANK YOU

    ABHISHEK VERMA,KUNDAN
    ER.STUDENTS
    CELL 919893390485,919893989846
    EMAIL abhi.chip06@gmail.com
    kundaninfy@gmail.com

  9. Dear sir,
    i had read your article in “THE HINDU” dated 13-nov-2009 for your new idea of UIDAI. Sir as you mentioned to provide biometric recognition which is related to thumb impression and iris recognition.
    sir as we think that along with the age THE EIGEN VALUE OF FACE AND THUMB CHANGES SO OUR SUGGESTION FOR YOUR IDEA IS TO PLEASE INCULDE DNA FINGERPRINTING BECAUSE IT IS THE ONLY THING WHICH WIL NOT EVER CHANGE WITH AGE AND IT IS UNIQUE FOR EACH PERSON
    sir we are an engineering student of final year computer science and we also deal with this idea as our MAJOR PROJECT since 2 months ago
    WE FEEL ACCOLADE TO RECEIVE YOUR RESPONCE.
    THANK YOU

  10. Continued from previous post

    6. In case of lost of UIDAI card what will be the procedure to get it back or get a new one. For eg. In case if any Army person lost his I card any where and we but the same in any letter box it get back to the army person. We should have the facility to block the lost card and get that same card with same ID number from the authority.

    7. Finger prints of all 10 fingers should be taken in the database.

    8. What is official site of UIDAI? Please work on this also.

    9. Dear Sir I was not able to find your name and email id on parliament website, please get it updated. Currently we don’t have any email id or phone number or web site to contact you to give suggestions. 

    10. At the time of birth and death of any person generation of UID should become mandatory in hospitals and funeral places.

    11. Requirement Specification of the project should be made available online for all to analyze it and give suggestion.

    Thanks and Regards,

    Ravinder Kumar
    Sr. Software Engineer -Testing
    Cell 919718883558
    email :ravindersanjay@rediffmail.com

  11. Hi
    Any one who is reading this please sent these suggestions given below to Mr. Nandan Nilekani because I was not able to find his contact info on net.

    1. Most Important suggestion: Dear Mr. Nandan Nilekani Please develop a way to get suggestions from all over India about UIDAI project. You might get some good suggestion from a large number of intelligent people in India which you could not think. Create a small department to summarize those suggestions for you start getting a large number of suggestions. Some really good suggestions can be encouraged by sort of prize also , just like Indian currency symbol 

    2. We can use Bar Code also on UID along with magnetic strip,

    3. Authority can also attach / assign a unique Mobile number and unique Email id info in the UID. Now a days any one can afford mobile ( for eg. idea gives its prepaid connection in just 25 Rs. ) and mobile subscriber base is expected to zoom to 893 million by 2012. In future every one will have their email id also. Later you can make them mandatory also if required.

    4. UID card should be able to use as plastic money so that in future all transactions can be tracked and black money and fake currency can be stopped.

    5. Process of getting a UID for a common man should be very easy and maximum part of it should be available online and “self service based” to reduce the staff requirement by your Authority (this will save governments money also).

    email :ravindersanjay@rediffmail.com

    Continued in just next post due to size constraint …..

  12. Vineet, Nandan Nilekani has asked people to send their resumes to:

    nandan[AT]gablestree.com.

  13. Mr Nilekani has mentioned several times that they will be lloking to recruit people from the private sector for the new project. How can people aspiring to join the team get in touch with the authorities? Thanks

  14. In response to the question we raised, Nandan Nilekani sent in this reply:

    “It is early days in the design architecture, but it is for all levels of government, PSUs, Private sector etc. The sequencing may be agency by agency to populate names into the database but the application of UIDs will be ubiquitous.”

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