New Delhi: The 16-digit Unique
Identification number that the government proposes to give you
could become mandatory for opening a bank account, getting
your passport or even your driving licence, among others.
The Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme, which
is expected to roll out the first number in 12-18 months,
however, will not confer on anyone any rights, including
citizenship, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
Chairman Nandan Nilekani said.
Stressing that the UID at present is completely
voluntary, Nilekani, the Infosys co-founder who quit the IT
firm to head the ambitious government project, said the number
will become "pervasive and ubiquitous" in future.
"When you to get a passport, they will say where is
your UID number, when you go to get a driving licence, they
will say where is your UID number, when you go to tax, they
will say where is your UID number, you go to open a bank
account, they will say where is your UID number. Sooner or
later you will have to get your UID number," Nilekani told a news agency in an interview.
He said that in the coming years, all the above
mentioned documents will start displaying the UID number,
which proposes to weed out duplicate identities in the system,
and hence the "number will become pervasive and ubiquitous. It
will become embedded in all these documents."
He said, "It is not mandatory but more applications
will make it a prerequisite. So sooner or later your life
becomes simpler if you have the number."
Nilekani said talks are already on with various agencies
and ministries and that "everybody is ready to partner with us
on this and use our UID number in their database."
He said that UID will also help to check black money and
result in higher tax collections as it will become difficult
to have duplicate accounts.
"Once the bank accounts start having the UID, then you
can't keep unaccounted money in the banking system. UID will
sort of act as a check on keeping black money and all that. It
will also strengthen security," he said.
Nilekani said it will take "years and not one day" for
the entire process to change. He said about 600 million of the
about 1.2 billion population will be covered under the project
in the next five years.
Asked by when could banks start having UID as a necessary
feature to open accounts, he said, "that will be the choice of
the individual agencies. We are providing a infrastructure. It
is up to the ministry or the relevant departments to decide
Explaining further, he said, "For example, RBI is the
authority to decide when UID will be used for bank accounts.
We are just giving this facility. So they will decide saying
from this date onwards, new bank accounts must have UID. From
this date, people having old bank accounts must come and
upgrade with UID. These are decisions taken by them. We can't
dictate those things."
Asked how many agencies have agreed to partnering with
his office, he said, "In fairness, everybody that we have met
has agreed. They are all ready to come on board. All the
agencies have agreed to be our partners."
First Published: Sunday, October 18, 2009, 16:30