ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Aadhaar and Civil Society

The Aadhaar project was started in 2009 with much fanfare to provide the poor and marginalised with an identity. The Unique Identifi cation Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani personally pushed for close interactions with civil society and the authority held several rounds of consultations to seek inputs from the grass roots. Unfortunately, those initial efforts were quickly drowned out by the strong voices of opposition from privacy advocates. Propoor non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which might have been expected to enthusiastically support the project, chose to remain on the sidelines. This suited the bureaucrats, who were uncomfortable with the notion of civil society partnerships to begin with, and plans to reach out to the ID-less were soon put on the back burner.

Fortunately, there has been a dramatic shift in favour of the project in recent weeks: The government has reiterated its strong support for Aadhaar and the project is expected to fi nd prominent mention in the upcoming budget speech. The UIDAI has proven its critics wrong on several important issues, such as the accuracy of biometric technology and the cost of the project. Several initiatives are currently underway to demonstrate the power of Aadhaar on the ground – e g, as meeting KYC norms for small accounts; for e-payments in MGNREGS, pension schemes, and student scholarships; reining in illicit trade in LPG supply, etc.

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