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On table: Aadhaar for citizens, not residents

Rajnath Singh

New Delhi, June 18: Aadhaar numbers and cards will be issued only to Indian citizens and not “usual residents”, the government today proposed in a departure from the UPA’s policy.

The proposal was made at a meeting chaired by Union home minister Rajnath Singh and attended by the registrar-general of citizenship registration, C. Chandramouli.

The new policy will necessitate changes to a cabinet decision taken by the UPA, besides clearing confusion over the fate of the Aadhaar cards that are issued to residents and are not proof of citizenship.

Sources said it might take over a month for the proposal to be fleshed out and placed before the cabinet.

Over 60 crore Aadhaar numbers have been issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to “usual residents” — those who have stayed in a locality for at least six months and intend to do so for another six months.

The unique numbers will remain in place. However, if the cabinet clears the proposal, the numbered residents will be issued citizen cards only on the basis of additional death and birth registration data.

Today’s decision would limit the UIDAI’s role to generating the unique numbers and conducting a de-duplication exercise to weed out individuals getting more than one number. The UIDAI eventually may not hold camps to issue Aadhaar cards if Singh’s decision is ratified by the cabinet.

The UPA government’s plan was to derive the subset of citizens from the National Population Register (NPR) after verification of citizenship. However, the NDA government feels that there should be a single exercise leading to a national register of Indian citizens.

Singh said effective steps should be taken to create the national register of citizens, an official release said.

He instructed officials that all proposals, including update of the database through linkages with the birth and death registration system and the issuance of national identity cards to citizens, be brought for approval at the earliest, sources said.

Over the next month, the Registrar-General of India is expected to prepare a roadmap to issue citizenship cards. “The Centre feels unique numbers and cards should be issued only to citizens and there is no need for two types of cards,” a source said.

Since 2010, numbers and cards were issued after collection of biometric data (iris scan and fingerprinting) by two authorities: the RGI’s office under the National Population Register scheme and the Nandan Nilekani-led UIDAI. Nilekani, who was the face of the UPA’s Aadhaar programme, resigned as UIDAI chairman on March 13 before contesting on a Congress ticket from Bangalore. He lost the election.

The Aadhaar numbers were aimed at improving the use and implementation of benefits and services provided under government schemes, planning and security.

There was some confusion when the UPA decided to allow two agencies to collect data of residents. The UIDAI collected biometric data and issued Aadhaar cards while the NPR also gathered the data. P. Chidambaram and Nilekani had run-ins over which agency would enrol residents.

Plans of the previous government to legislate the UIDAI virtually stand scrapped after today’s meeting.

Getting an Aadhaar card from the UIDAI was optional but enrolment under the National Population Register scheme is mandatory under Citizenship Rules. Often, residents were confused whether they needed to go to an “NPR camp” if they had been to an “Aadhaar camp”. They will have to, according to rules.

The resident is required to visit a National Population Register camp with the unique Aadhaar number, provide additional personal information and undergo verification for registration in the population.

“The enrolment will now be done completely under the National Register of Indian Citizens by the RGI’s office,” said a source.