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The UID (Unique Identification) and NPR (National Population Register) are both government identity schemes that aggregate personal data, including biometric data for the provision of an identification factor, and aim to link them with the delivery of public utility services. The differences between the two exist in terms of collection of data, the type of identification factor issued, authorities involved and the outcome.

Despite the differences, there has been talk of combining the two schemes because of the overlap.[1] In the same breath, it has been argued that the two schemes are incompatible. [2] One of the UIDAI’s (Unique Identification Authority of India) functions is to harmonize the two schemes. [3] As it stands, the schemes are distinct. Enrolment for a UID does not lead to automatic enrolment in the NPR. The NPR website expressly states that even if a data subject has undergone census or has been granted a UID Number, it is necessary to visit a data collection centre to provide biometric data for the NPR.[4]

UID and NPR: The Differences

– The basis of identity/ Unit of survey (Difficulty Inserting Appropriate Term): The most striking difference between the UID and NPR Schemes is their notion of identity. The UID is individual based, whereas the NPR scheme focuses on the household or the family as a composite unit. Thus, the UID seeks to enroll individuals while the NPR seeks to gather data of the members of a household or family as a composite unit during the census and later register each person for an NPR Card, on the basis of the census data. To this extent, analysis of the data gathered from the two schemes will be different and will require differing analytical tools. The definition of the data subject and the population is different. In one scheme, the unit is an individual; in the other it is the household/family. Though the family is the composite unit in the NPR, the data is finally extracted it is unpaired to provide individuals NPR cards, but the family based association is not lost and it is argued that this household association of NPR should be used to calculate and provide subsidies. Some states have put on hold transfer of cooking gas subsidy, which is calculated for each household, through Aadhar-linked bank accounts.[5]If both schemes were merged, the basis for determining entitlement to subsidies would be non-uniform.

– Differences in Information Collection: The UID and NPR have different procedures for collection of information. In the UID scheme, all data is collected in data collection centres whereas NPR data is collected door to door in part and in collection centres for the other part. UID data is collected by the UIDAI themselves or by private parties, under contract. These contractors are private parties: often, online marketing service providers.[6] The data subjects were initially allowed registration through an introducer and without any documentation. This was replaced with the verification system where documents were to be produced for registration for UID.

The NPR involves a dual collection process- the first stage is the door-to-door collection of data as part of the Census. This information is collected through questionnaire. No supporting documents/ proof is produced to verify this data. The verification happens at a later stage, through public display of the information. This data is digitized. The data subjects are then to give their biometric data at the data collection centres, on the production of the census slip. The biometric data collectors are parties who are empanelled by the UIDAI and are eligible to collect data under the UID Scheme. A subject’ s data is aggregated and then de-duplicated by the UIDAI. [7]

This shows two points of merger. It can be suggested that when data is collected for the UID number, then the subject should not have to give their biometrics for the NPR Scheme again. The sharing of biometrics across the schemes will reduce cost and redundancy. While sharing of UID data with NPR is feasible, the reverse is not true, since UID is optional and NPR is not. If NPR data is to be shared with UID, then the subject has the right to refuse. However, the consent for using NPR data for the UID is a default YES in the UID form. [8] Prohibiting the information sharing is no option.

– Differences in Stated Purposes: The NPR is linked to citizenship status. The NPR exercise is being conducted to create a national citizen register and to assist in identifying and preventing illegal immigration. The NPR card, a desired outcome, is aimed to be a conduit for transactions relating to subsidies and public utilities.[9] So is the UID Number, which was created to provide the residents of India an identity. The linkage and provision of subsidies through the NPR and UID cards have not taken off on a large scale and there is a debate as to which will be more appropriate for direct benefit transfer, with some leaders proclaiming that the NPR scheme is more suited to direct benefit transfer.[10] Since the UID Number is linked to direct benefit transfer, but not to citizenship, benefits such as those under the MNREGA scheme, may be availed by non-citizens as well, though only citizens are eligible for the scheme.[11]

C. Chandramouli, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, states that the conflict between the two schemes is only perceived, and results from a poor understanding of the differences in objective. The NPR, he states is created to provide national security through the creation of a citizen register, starting with a register of residents after authentication and verification of the residence of the subjects. On the other hand, the UID exercise is to provide a number that will be used to correctly identify a person.[12]

– Difference in Legal Sanctity: The UIDAI was set up through an executive notification, which dictates a few of its responsibility, including: assigning a UID number, collating the UID and NPR schemes, laying down standards for interlinking with partner databases and so on. However, the UIDAI has not expressed responsibility to collect, or authorize collection of data under this scheme. The power to authorize the collection of biometrics is vested with the National Identification Authority of India (NIAI), which will be set up under the National Identification Authority of India Bill, (NIAI Bill, which is at times referred to as the UID Bill).

The NPR Scheme has been created pursuant to the 2004 Amendment of the Citizenship Act. Under S. 14A of the Citizenship Act, the central government has the power to compulsorily register citizens for an Identity Card. This gives the NPR exercise sanctity. However, no authority to collect biometric information has been given either under this Act or Rules framed under it.

Future of Aadhaar

The existence of both the UID and NPR Schemes leads to redundancy. Therefore, many have advocated for their merger. This seems impractical, as the standards in collection and management of data are not the same.

For some time, it was thought that the Aadhaar Scheme would be scrapped. This belief was based on the present government’s opposition to the scheme during and before the election. This was further strengthened by the fact that they did not expressly mention the continuance of the scheme in their manifesto. The Cabinet Committee on UIDAI was disbanded and the enrolment for the UID Number was stopped, only to be resumed a short while later.[13]

However, recent events show that the Aadhaar scheme will continue. First, the new government has stated that the UID scheme will continue. In support of the UID Scheme, the government has made budgetary allocation for the scheme to enable, inter-alia, it being sped-up. The Government even intends to enact a law to give the scheme sanctity. [14]

Second, the Government is assigning the UID Number new uses. To track attendance of government employees, the Government shall use a biometric attendance system, which is linked to the employees UID Number. [15] The attendance will be uploaded onto a website, to boost transparency.

Third, direct benefit transfers under the UID will become more vigorous. The UID is already necessary for registration under the NPR, which is compulsory.

Providing one’s UID Number for utilities such as cooking gas is also compulsory in several areas, despite the Courts diktat that it should not be so.[16]

Conclusion

The government is in favour of continuing both the schemes. Therefore, it is unlikely that either scheme will be scrapped or that the two schemes will be combined. The registration for UID is becoming compulsory by implication as it is required for direct benefit transfers and for utilities. Data collected under NPR is being shared with the UIDAI by default, when one registers for a UID number. However, the reverse is unlikely, as the UID collects secondary data, whereas NPR requires primary data, which it collects through physical survey and authentication. Perhaps the sharing of data could be incorporated when one goes to the data collection centre to submit biometrics for the NPR. The subject could fill in the UID form and submit verification documents at this stage, completing both exercises in one go. This will drastically reduce the combined costs of the two exercises.

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References

[1] Rajesh Aggarwal, Merging UID and NPR???, Igovernment, accessed 5 September, 2014http://www.igovernment.in/igov/opinion/41631/merging-npr-uid; Bharti Jain, Rajnath Hints at Merger of NPR and Aadhar, Times of India, accessed 5 September, 2014 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rajnath-hints-at-merger-of-NPR-and-Aadhaar/articleshow/35740480.cms
[2] Raju Rajagopal, The Aadhar-NPR Conundrum, Mint, accessed 5 September, 2014http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/tvpoCYeHxrs2Z7EkAAu7bP/The-AadhaarNPR-conundrum.html .
[3] Cl, 4 of the Notification on the creation o fthe UIDAI, No. A-43011/02/2009-Admin.1 of the Planning Commission of India, dated 28 January, 2009
[4] FAQ for NPR, accessed: 3 September, 2014. http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-Common/FAQs.html
[5] A Jolt for Aadhar: UPA Shouldn’t Have to Put on Hold its Only Good Idea,Business Standard, accessed 5 September, 2014 http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/a-jolt-for-aadhaar-114020301243_1.html
[6] Prakash Chandra Sao, The Unique ID Project in India: An Exploratory Study, accessed: 21 August, 2014http://subversions.tiss.edu/the-unique-id-project-in-india-an-exploratory-study/
[7] NPR Acticities, accessed 5 September, 2014, http://ditnpr.nic.in/NPR_Activities.aspx
[8] R. Dinakaran, NPR and Aadhar- A Confused Process, The Hindu BusinessLine, accessed: 4 September, 2014http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blogs/blog-rdinakaran/npr-and-aadhaar-a-confused-process/article4940976.ece
[9] More than sixty-five thousand NPR cards have been issued and biometric data of more than twenty-five lakh people has been captured, as on 28 August, 2014 http://censusindia.gov.in
[10] NPR, not Aadhaar, best tool for cash transfer: BJP’s Sinha, accessed: 3 September,http://www.moneycontrol.com/master_your_money/stocks_news_consumption.php?autono=1035033
[11] Bharati Jain, NDA’s national ID cards may kill UPA’s Aadhaar, accessed 3 September, 2014http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/NDAs-national-ID-cards-may-kill-UPAs-Aadhaar/articleshow/36791858.cms
[12] Id.
[13] Aadhar Enrolment Drive Begins Again, accessed 3 Spetember, 2014http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/Aadhaar-enrolment-drive-begins-again/articleshow/38280932.cms
[14] Mahendra Singh, Modi govt to give legal backing to Aadhaar, Times of India,http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Modi-govt-to-give-legal-backing-to-Aadhaar/articleshow/38336812.cms
[15] Narendra Modi Government to Launch Website to Track Attendance of Central Government Employees, DNA, accessed: 4 September, 2014 http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-narendra-modi-government-to-launch-website-to-track-attendance-of-central-government-employees-2014684
[16] No gas supply without Aadhaar card, Deccan Chronicle, accessed: 4 September, 2014,http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140829/nation-current-affairs/article/no-gas-supply-without-aadhaar-card

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