Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is getting a lot of mail these days. It was the turn of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to take up the protest pen on November 11, 2011, to raise serious security concerns about Nandan Nilekani’s Unique Identification Authority of India’s ‘Aadhar’ cards project. In his note, Chidambaram has also accused Nilekani of dangerously encroaching on the legally mandated enrolment work being conducted by the Registrar General of India, which is in the Home Ministry’s domain.
Reflecting the shadow war between him and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Chidambaram’s note suggests that its not only Nilekani who is encroaching on the Home Ministry’s territory. “The UIDAI was allowed to get enrolments of 10 crore residents through multiple registrars up to 31 March 2011.
This was raised to an additional 10 crore residents up to March 2012 by the Ministry of Finance (subject to post facto ratification by the CC-UIDAD. This was approved as interim measure.)”Nilekani’s reporting structure is unprecedented in history; he reports directly to the Prime Minister, thus bypassing all checks and balances in government. The Planning Commission had shot off two letters to the Finance Ministry and the Home Ministry protesting the UIDAI’s handling of finances. Its chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia suggested the UIDAI to be “financially self-contained with its own financial advisor entrusted with clearing expenditure within their approved budget while observing relevant government rules.”
After Nilekani bypassed Montek and requested the Finance Minister to grant him additional funds of `15,000 crore over and above the `2,000-crore plan allocation and `1,000 crore from the non-plan head, the Plan Panel was furious. “UIDAI’s present system represents a major departure from government procedures and removes all inbuilt checks and balances. We need a relook at the UIDAI’s administrative structure.” It can be inferred from Chidambaram’s note that Nilekani being unaccountable to the system is setting a dangerous precedent. Chidambaram writes the decision to register all citizens and issue identity cards to them precedes the formation of the UIDAI. The legal provisions were put in place way back in 2003. “The enrolments were to be done only by the Registrar General of India (RGI),’’ the note stresses, adding that “the primary role of UIDAI was clearly laid down: generate and assign UID to residents’’.
Chidambaram notes that despite the advice given to him by the PM to consult the Attorney-General to amend the legal provisions so as to render UIDAI data “acceptable’’, he was constrained to point out that “the NPR project has been conceived by the MHA based on its appreciation of internal security in the country.’’ Chidambaram writes while “the MHA is to carry out enrolment (biographic and biometric), the UIDAI is to carry out de-duplication and issue Aadhar numbers.’’
- My powers have been delegated by Prime Minister: Nilekani (thehindu.com)
- India’s prestigious UID program faces bureaucratic and legal hurdles (zdnet.com)