The Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) project is an initiative of the Centre to create a national ID for every Indian citizen with the aim of increasing national security, managing citizen identity and facilitating e-governance.The project was initiated under the Vajpayee-led NDA government (circa 2002), which has been continued by the present UPA government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI) is the organisation entrusted with the job. That is, compiling an electronic roster of everyone who resides in this vast, sprawling country. It will be headed by Nandan Nilekani. One thing is for sure, what with over a billion people to account for, this is one project that’s not likely to be completed before time.
The Infosys czar is slated to join the authority sometime in mid-July. The UIAI’s job will be to ensure the issue of all-purpose, unique identification cards to all citizens takes place and, importantly, takes place smoothly. Sources in the know inform yours truly that Nilekani has already given the government a list of up to 50 IT professionals from the private sector, including Infosys, he wants on the team. Several IAS officers are also said to be interested in joining his team.
The card with a 16-digit identification code will gradually replace all other ID cards, such as the driving licence, voter ID card and the permanent account number card. It will be a smart card with 16kb memory. The government has allocated Rs 100 crore to establish a comprehensive system of unique IDs for the resident population of the country.
The system will also have cyber-security features to make it tamper and cloning-proof. It is said the project is being fast tracked because it will ensure better implementation of various welfare projects, distribution of subsidies and keeping track of suchlike.
People have been quick to point out various problems about the project. But the thing that concerns critics most is that while the people in power, as is their wont, say they’re doing it for the benefit of the poor, there’s a strong suspicion it will be misused as a tool to keep tabs on us.
Quote hangar: It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity —Albert Einstein