Indian National UID

A - Presentation of Issue

The Central Government of India aims to distribute a unique identity card to every Indian citizen. The Indian National UID Project will be on the lines of the SSN (Social Security Number) in the United States. The seeds of the project were sown in 2002 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Named Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) then its main aim was to track every Indian citizen to counter the growing threat of terrorism and create a countrywide database of every Indian citizen which is the need of developed nation [Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, 2009]. In an interview given by Mr. Nandan Nilekani he said, “There is lot more focus on development issues”, and with the advent of UID will help development of the country [Nandan Nilekani, 2008].
Some of the defined parameters for the UID are:

1. Name

2. UID Number

3. Photograph

4. Date of Birth

5. Right-hand Forefinger Print [Nikhil Pahwa, 2009]

The unique ID number of a person under the UIDAI project is meant for identifying the person and is not proof of the person's citizenship” [Nandan Nilekani, 2009]. Distribution of UID cards to genuine Indian citizens considering the amount of influx taking place from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka yet the National UID project will be a major boost to the law and order system in the country and be an active tool in fighting against terrorism [Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, 2009].

B - The IT background of the issue

The UID card given to the people will have a micro processor chip with 16 KB of memory to store all the confidential information. The card will be made secure using ‘asymmetric key cryptography' and ‘symmetric key cryptography' which will prevent duplication and misuse of the card [Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, 2009]. The system would contain one large database, comprising the unique identification number of one billion plus population. The government is considering splitting the UID database into two sets of parameters - the primary database will be accessible on the Internet and used for access purposes and verification, while the secondly database is likely to be kept offline, and in multiple formats, and be used only if the primary data is in dispute. Secondary data could have multiple biometric features including Iris scan, hand geometry, and additional data including names ofgrandparents and great-grandparents, because the hacker may not be aware of these things [Nikhil Pahwa, 2009]. In general, "biometrics" is a statistical analysis of certain human biological or physiological traits, such as fingerprints. Finger print or retina of the eyes of one person does not match with anyone else's. Therefore there is absolutely no chance of other people using your identity [Jeya Eskalin, 2009].

C - Impact of Issue

The unique identification numbers will take into account the database of the poor and the marginalised people, mostly living in the rural areas. The numbers will, for the first time, provide an identity to those who need it the most. [Indrani Roy Mitra, 2009] It will be major boost to the law and order system in the country and be an active tool in the fight against terrorism [Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, 2009]. With the UID of every individual in the country any person suspected of being a terrorist can be traced. For instance several suspects of murders or other crimes escape and change their identity and reside in the other part of the country but with the UID these suspects can be traced and their identity can be confirmed with the biometric details embedded on the UID. The UID will be used for monitoring financial transactions which reduces the chances of a fraud. It will be major tool in the Government's hand to facilitate e-governance service which is the need of hour in a geographically vast country like India [Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, 2009]. It could also be used as a tool for justice by keeping an up-to-date record of a person's criminal record or fines and driving offenses, as is done in other countries [Preethi J, 2009]. Further fuel to the discussion is added by the increasing problem of fraud crimes related to the misuse of personal information, commonly called 'identity theft'; it could also help law enforcement agencies track down offenders and prevent certain types of fraudulent behaviour such as identity theft [Marc Watkins, 2007].

D - A solution from a problem arising from the Issue

Another grave problem with the UID project is that - How do you decide who can be issued a UID? Infiltrators and others from neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other neighbouring nations who sneakily walk into Indian territory who almost look similar to Indians and may apply for a UID then how would the government decide if that person is supposed to be issued a UID or not? A solution to this would be that before issuing a UID the government should verify the identity of that person in the present database that the government has or validate the passport or the PAN card of the individual. One may ask - what about the people in the lowest ring of the socio-economic class? This is a limitation of the PAN card system as these people on very low incomes do not have a PAN card yet they are issued a ration card which can be used to verify their identity before issuing a UID. To overcome these limitations the government has an alternative of verifying their ration cards, ration cards are something which are issued to family comprising of Indian citizens. Ration cards are widely accepted as proofs of identity and residence. They are a good source of verification because ration cards have the names of all the family members and other personal details which can clearly verify and authenticate the citizenship credentials of an individual and thus make him/her eligible for a NUID card.

E - Selection and Use of Sources

1) News Source

2), National UID Project, Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, September 3, 2009 [Date of Access - January 19, 2010]

3), #UID: 12 Parameters for India's National ID, Nikhil Pahwa, September 11, 2009 [Date of Access - January 22, 2010]

4), UID to boost national security: Nilekani, Nandan Nilekani, December 8, 2009 [Date of Access - January 25, 2010]

5), Nilekani on advantages of UID number, Indrani Roy Mitra, August 25, 2009 [Date of Access - January 25, 2010]

6), Smart Cards for National ID in India; Need for Single ID? Impact on Mobile Biz, Preethi J and Nikhil Pahwa, June 26, 2009 [Date of Access- January 29, 2010]

7), National ID Cards, Marc Watkins, June 2, 2007 [Date of Access - January 26, 2010]

8), Biometrics Security, Jeya Eskalin, December 13, 2009 [Date of Access - February 1, 2010]

9), Conversation - “Time is Running Out”, Nandan Nilekani, December 3, 2008 [Date of Access - February 2, 2010]

New Item - Extract

UID will improve national security: Nilekani

TNN, 9 December 2009, 01:43am IST

AHMEDABAD: The Unique Identification (UID) number will be useful in improving security once it is issued to all citizens in the country, said Dr

Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). He was speaking at the Lincoln Memorial Lecture series organized by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (Gujarat branch) here on Tuesday.

Nilekani said that the purpose of UID number was to verify the identity of every Indian. He added, "Once we have the full coverage, that is once every Indian has the number, which may take number of years, it will help in identification of a person. Later, even if one has to book a room in any hotel, he will have to give his UID number to the hotel authorities before checking-in," Nilekani said.
"At that point if somebody doesn't have his UID that would it become an issue. And, more appropriately under the then legal framework you can also track somebody (with help of the UID number). So I think it would benefit security. But the primary focus as of now is on development," he added.

The unique ID number of a person under the UIDAI project is meant for identifying the person and is not proof of the person's citizenship, Nilekani said.

He is very hopeful that the UID system would cover at least 60 crore Indians within the next four years and the UIDAI would begin allotting the UID by February 2011.

He said that UIDAI would take help from banks, Election Commission, state governments and other organisations, Income Tax department to collect data of people. He said that the Registrar General of India which is conducting the 2011 census would also be roped in for the project. He said special biometric software would be developed which would be utilised by the Registrar General of India when they collect data for the census.

He added that UID may dovetail into the proposed e-health card project, and the NREGA. The muster roll under the NREGA should have the UID number and the bank account so that there is accountability that the money has gone into the right hands.

He said that there are plans that the ten-digit Permanent Account Number (PAN) and the 16-digit Unique Identification (UID) Number are set to be linked. The government has decided to link the plan for biometric PAN cards with the UID project.

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