April 2012

An Ambitious Project Takes Shape

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Aimed at creating a database of every resident of the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs has embarked upon the ambitious project of preparing the National Population Register

Anand Agarwal, Elets News Network (ENN)

The Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India has another hat to wear.  A 2003 amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citzenship (registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003 has designated him the Registrar General of Citizens Registration of India. In this capacity, he heads the ambitious National Population Register project whose objective is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The biometric-based database would use Aadhar numbers to uniquely identify citizens and also record their demographic details (see box).

Biometric Details
•    Photograph
•    Scan of all ten fingerprints
•    Scan of both Irises Demographic Particulars
•    Name of Person   
•    Relationship to head of household   
•    Father’s name   
•    Mother’s name   
•    Spouse’s name (if married)   
•    Sex   
•    Date of Birth   
•    Marital Status   
•    Place of Birth   
•    Nationality (as declared)   
•    Present address of usual residence   
•    Duration of stay at present address   
•    Permanent residential address   
•    Occupation/Activity   
•    Educational qualification

The fieldwork for collection of demographic particulars of residents has already been completed in consonance with the Census 2011. Work will shortly start on collection of biometric details, for which all persons of age 5 and above will have to visit local camps to be set up for the purpose. It is a legal compulsion for all residents to provide their demographic and biometric details to the NPR project – a key distinguishing feature from the UIDAI project, where enrolment is voluntary.

All residents enrolled by NPR would also receive an Aadhar number, if the UIDAI has not already allotted them one. In this way, the Aadhar would form the bedrock on which the entire system of resident identification would come to be based eventually.

The NPR would also issue to each resident a photo smart card with an embedded chip that would carry the demographic and select biometric details. This would be the final step in a long process (see figure) where caution is being exercised in abundance so as to ensure that the final record is free of spurious details and is a comprehensive record of residents.

Once the first phase of identification of residents and issuance of smart cards is completed, a mechanism for continuous updation of this essentially dynamic dataset would be put in place. Making extensive use of the connectivity backbone created under the different State Wide Area Networks, centres would be created at the Block (sub district) level to cater to requirements such as birth and deaths, alteration in name & address etc.

A lot of space has been devoted to the apparent conflict between the UIDAI and NPR projects, but as the Registrar General of India Dr C Chandramouli clarifies in this month’s cover interview, the objectives of the two schemes are different, and the biometric data would be common to both. At an estimated per capita cost of a mere $0.5 per resident, the NPR project could be one of the most important investments made in national security.

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