Yentha Special: Aadhaar, NPR – What? How? Why?


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The two projects, which almost appear to be mirror images of each other, are raising a lot of questions with no answers in sight | By Yentha
On Oct 21, 2011

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Trivandrum: Aadhaar was launched in Kerala amidst much fanfare on July 5, 2011. Through Aadhaar, the government proposed the collection of basic demographics and biometric information – photographs, ten finger prints and iris scans – from a person in return for a 12 digit Unique Identification number. Aadhaar was supposed to have made the government more efficient by allowing it to identify the poorest of the poor through their UID number and grant sufficient benefits to this section for their upliftment.

A month ago, Yentha had reported in ‘Yentha Special’ feature about the controversy surrounding the project with its differences in forms distributed through various centres. Allegation of it having no parliamentary approval to be implemented in the first place, also sprang up. Three months on, Aadhaar is a rarely heard word nowadays.

No one is talking about the many hundred crores spent for the project and the ‘absolute necessity’ of having this vaguely explained project implemented, as was declared during its initial stages.

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Now, at SFS Parish hall, Vattiyoorkavu, people are crowding around for another sort of data collection, this time under the name of NPR (National Population Register) project. This project was given parliamentary approval more than a decade ago, but had been lying dormant since then. In late 2010 there was a sudden resurgence and NPR started actively functioning in different parts of the country.

It came to Kerala quite recently. A slip is given to every person living in a particular ward. On the given date, at the given time, the people are required to arrive at the specified place to have all their details recorded through census, verified and also to have additional details – basic demographics, biometric information – recorded from them. After the process has completed all its needed stages, the person would be given a 12 digit UID number and after a short time, an identity card with a micro chip affixed onto it holding all the recorded details of the particular person is distributed to them, which they are to have with them, at all times.

ITI (Indian Telecom Industry) is carrying out the data collection with both this projects. An ITI official at SFS Parish hall had this to say to Yentha: “There isn’t much difference between the two. Both NPR and Aadhaar are more or less the same project with different names.”

Eliminating all the descriptions and definitions, in simple mathematical terms, Aadhar = NPR – ID card.

The total budget allotted for the NPR project exceeds three thousand crores, which come after having spent a similar figure in the name of Aadhaar. And the difference – just the distribution of a microchip fitted identity card.

Yentha spoke to Rajiv, Deputy Director, Census. “NPR is the more important one of the two. It has been approved by the parliament. The ID card you receive as part of NPR will be your most important document in future. Joining for Aadhaar is optional, as it just gives you your UID number. But joining NPR project is absolutely essential.”

NPR too, is supposed to make the government more efficient in helping the poorest of the poor by picking them out with precision through the NPR record, granting them benefits, which are assured to reach the right people through the 12 digit UID number. In a nation with a literacy level of 60%, with all of its ‘poorest of the poor’ in the remaining 40%, how effective is giving a 12 digit number and an ID card with a micro chip fitted inside it to these people?

The Census collects just the overall background of a person or a family to serve as the primary source of data for planning and implementation of policies by the central and state governments. But through NPR, or through Aadhaar for that matter, a lot of personal details such as parent’s names, spouse’s names, current address, permanent address, along with the photograph of the person and the finger biometry of the person are being collected and recorded. It was the availability of private data to the wrong people in power which caused riots and massacres, that still lies fresh in the aging pages of history.

Too many puzzling questions with no satisfactory answers and the biggest puzzle of all is, why the government is spending crores for two very similar, and to an extent the same, projects which visibly sport quite a few inaccuracies and loopholes and whose given descriptions can be termed incomplete and confusing at best.

The common man is demanding answers…

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