January 27th, 2012
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UIDAI: Cabinet Committee to resolve biometric issue

chidambaramNew Delhi: The Cabinet Committee will meet today to arrive at a compromise regarding the controversy surrounding the collection of biometric data. There has been disagreement about whether this will be done by the UIDAI headed by Nandan Nilekani, or the National Population Register headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram.

The battle over biometrics between Nandan Nilekani’s department and the Home Ministry is said to have ended in a compromise on Wednesday. In a meeting held yesterday which was chaired by the Prime Minister, they seemed to have arrived at an understanding that the fingerprints and iris scans of Indians will be collected by both teams, with as little duplication as possible.

Mr Nilekani’s department has so far spent Rs. 670 crore and enrolled 20 crore Indians with their biometrics including their finger prints and iris. The problem is that the Home Ministry is empowered to collect exactly the same data for the National Population Register or NPR. At the meeting on Wednesday, it was decided that Mr Nilekani would conduct his enrolment exercise in areas where his team has already collected information on more than 50% of the population. Remaining areas will be handled by the Home Ministry’s officials. Mr Nilekani’s exercise has been asked to be seen through the prism of development; the NPR’s focus will remain on accumulating data vital for internal security.

Mr Nilekani’s department was initially meant to use the NPR’s data for its work. But because the NPR’s collection of data was moving slowly, the UIDAI asked for and received permission to collect the biometrics for 20 crore Indians. The logic was that the two databases of the NPR and the UIADI would eventually be married. But the Home Ministry then said that the UIDAI’s data was not upto it’s standard. Separately, concerns have been raised about whether the UIADI is legally empowered to collect personal information, and how the safety of its data would be guaranteed.

Home Minister P, Chidambaram has sought clarity on the status on who will capture bio-metric data — RGI or UIDAI. The Home Ministry feels the data collected by UIDAI was not secure as it is not verified by a government servant. The data collection by UIDAI has been done by hired organizations which is a cause of concern for the Home Minister. The body has already enrolled 170 million residents.




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