An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) headed by the External Affairs Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherji has approved the establishment of a Unique Identity Authority for all residents of the country. The UID Authority will be set up under the Planning Commission. This UID Authority will formulate a detailed proposal covering the full cost of implementation and for the full contingent of staff needed and place it before the Cabinet for its approval. The UID is expected to become available to an initial set of users by early 2010.
Creation of a person identity system in a country of over a billion people poses monumental challenges. The approval by the EGOM lays the foundation for the implementation of a Unique Identity system for all residents in the country based on a proposal formulated by the Department of Information Technology at the request of the Planning Commission.
There has been a long felt need in the country for a system of unique identification of every individual for a variety of purposes such as better targeting of government's development schemes, regulatory purposes (including taxation and licensing), security purposes, banking and financial sector activities, etc.
The Unique Identity Project seeks to assign a unique identity (UID) number to each individual in the country that would remain a permanent identifier right from birth to death of the individual. From the point of view of any person in the country, the UID offers many benefits. First and foremost, it would obviate the need for a person to produce multiple documentary proofs of his identity for availing of any government service, or private services like opening of a bank account, etc. This would end needless harassment that people face for availing of basic government services like issuance of passports, driving licences, Electoral Identity Cards, etc. Backed by intensive use of technology, it would greatly facilitate easy verification of a person's identity and enable a single communication to trigger address changes in all relevant agencies records. It would also serve as the basis for many e-governance services incorporating online verification of a person's identity. UID would enable government to ensure that benefits under various welfare programmes reach the intended beneficiaries, prevent cornering of benefits by a few people and minimize frauds. It would enable financial institutions to exchange information regarding defaulters and encourage responsible borrower behaviour.
The scheme envisages that at the inception, the UID number will be assigned to all voters by building on current electoral roll data and progressively adding other persons including persons below 18 years of age who are not a part of the voters list in the country. Over a period of time, through failsafe procedures backed by intensive use of technology and with the help of multiple government agencies, the currency and comprehensiveness of the database will be perfected. The scheme is designed to leverage intensive usage of the UID for multiple purposes to provide an efficient and convenient mechanism to update information. Photographs and biometric data will be added progressively to make the identification foolproof. Easy registration and information change procedures are envisaged for the benefit of the people.