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Parliament panel axes UIDAI; project in crisis of identity

DNMUM230677 | 12/14/2011 | Author : Neeraj Thakur | WC :473 | India

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Finance committee objects, asks for it to be handed over to National Population Register

Within days of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi throwing his might behind the unique identification number project, the parliamentary standing committee on finance axed it, calling it "a scheme conceptualised with no clarity of purpose". It will be difficult for the UPA government to recover from this outright rejection.
The report comes at a time when the government was battling the Jan Lokpal crisis by using the "supremacy of Parliament" as its key argument. It even banked upon Congress spokesman, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who chairs another parliamentary standing committee, as its main weapon to counter Team Anna's charge.
The Yashwant Sinha-led committee on finance has raised questions about the feasibility, ethics and purpose of a scheme that was launched even before Parliament could have its say. The committee is going along with Union home minister P Chidambaram's stand that the UID's work and data be handed over to the National Population Register.

The report also brings to the fore a number of shocking revelations.
• The UID that was launched in Tembhli village, Nandurbar district, in Maharashtra on September 29, 2010, by the PM and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi collected biometric data even though the Biometrics Standards Committee had questioned the practice.
• No comprehensive study was undertaken by the government on the feasibility of the project before launching it even without Parliament's sanction.
• The scheme was "full of uncertainty in technology" and is "built up on untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions."
• It also expressed its fear that it would "end up being dependant on private agencies".
• It notes that "the collection of biometric information and its linkages with personal information of individuals without amendment to the IT-related companies' Citizenship Act, 1955, as well as the Citizenship Rules, 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament".
Now, details accessed under the RTI by DNA also show that projects worth nearly Rs3000 crore are in jeopardy. Money to the tune of Rs600 crore has already been disbursed by the UID authority.
IT companies, such as HP and Wipro, have been the biggest gainers so far with projects nearing Rs200 crore each. Other companies such as Accenture and Mahindra Satyam had orders worth nearly Rs30 crore.
In the past, the ministry of home affairs had raised concerns over the efficacy of introducer system, involvement of private agencies on a large scale in the scheme, as it may become a threat to national security.
"I don't understand why we want to provide a card to every resident of the country. It will create serious security threats and cause loss of national resources, as many citizens who are not Indians will benefit from the scheme," a member of the parliamentary committee told DNA. Three Congress MPs issued dissent notes to the committee.

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