PM meets senior ministers to sort out UID project

New Delhi: Amid differences between Home Ministry and Planning Commission over continuation of UID project, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today held discussions with senior Cabinet colleagues to resolve the issues.

Singh will call a Cabinet meeting on Friday to take final call on extension of the UIDAI project, under which national identity cards are issued to entire population. "I think we have come to an agreement on how both the projects can proceed together without any difficulty … the Cabinet Committee (on UIDAI) was rescheduled and will happen on Friday. We are quite hopeful that we will have a resolution of these issues in that meeting," Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said here after the meeting.

Besides Ahluwalia, today`s meeting was attended by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram, UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani and National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon. "We are moving towards very satisfactory conclusion. There were different views … We reviewed different issues", Ahluwalia said, adding the Home Ministry`s National Population Register (NPR) project for constructing digital database of residents could continue along with UIDAI.

"I think that there is agreement that both the projects can move ahead and ways can be found that will avoid avoidable duplication. That was the key issue. I will sent the supplementary note (to Cabinet)", he added.

At the centre of the controversy is the collection of bio-metric data of all residents.
While the Home Ministry has maintained that the Registrar General of India (RGI) under it has been mandated to collect the data through the NPR, the Nandan Nilekani-led UIDAI has also been authorised to gather the information.

Home Minister P Chidambaram has sought clarity on the status on who will capture bio-metric data – Registrar General India or UIDAI. The Home Ministry feels that the data collected by UIDAI was not secure as it is not verified by a government servant.

The data collection by UIDAI has been done by hired organisations which is a cause of concern for the Home Minister. Since the UIDAI has already enrolled 170 million residents, the government will have to take a decision on the future of the body. UIDAI is likely to complete the mandate of enrolling 200 million residents even before the deadline of March 31 this year.

Ahluwalia has thrown his full weight behind the UIDAI saying the project should continue. On concerns over duplication of work and extra burden on exchequer, he had stated that the project is well worth it.

The Planning Commission wants more resources for the authority for continuation of its work. According to the Home Ministry proposal, chip-based smart cards will be issued to all residents on the basis of the record maintained by the NPR– a digital database under construction.