The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has issued 56 crore Aadhaar numbers till January 16, 2014. The authority is now adding 13-14 lakh numbers every day and appears all set to complete its mandate of covering 60 crore population in the next few weeks.
UIDAI started issuing Aadhaar numbers in September 2010 and managed to give out 25 crore numbers by December 2012 at an average of one crore numbers per month. During 2013, UIDAI issued a total of 29.1 crore Aadhaar numbers at an average of over 2.4 crore per month.
Though the number of sign-ups is pretty impressive, it is not clear how many of those have errors. UIDAI itself rejected Aadhaar numbers of 30 lakh people in Orissa a few days back because of errors and there have been several claims of Aadhaar cards with incorrect photos. One of the key points of Aadhaar is that it would be impossible for one person to get more than one Aadhaar card, but that myth too has been busted.
It needs to be noted that the number of sign ups could have been influenced by government’s decision to tie several essential services and subsidies to this service. West Bengal had raised its objection to the use of Aadhaar for distribution of gas subsidy, but the apex court is yet to decide on the fate of Aadhaar after passing an interim order that government cannot make it mandatory for subsidies.
UIDAI has been trying to highlight the advantages of Aadhaar in financial services, with Nandan Nilekani saying in October last year that the authority will introduce P2P payments using Aadhaar in two months. However, it has been a no show till now, which could also be because not enough people have linked bank accounts with Aadhaar to make it work as planned.
It also needs to be noted that Reserve Bank of India has been trying to enforce the inclusion of biometric sensors in all new credit card swiping machines to enable use of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication while making card-based payments. This move has been questioned by MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar and by banks who felt it was being rushed and implemented without understanding the implication it has on banks.