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Aadhaar Logo.svg
Country  India
Ministry Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India
Key people
Launched 28 January 2009 (2009-01-28)[1]
Budget 8,793.9 crore (US$1.4 billion) (through 31 March 2017) [2]
Status 1.19 billion holders as of 30 Nov 2017 [3]
Website uidai.gov.in

Aadhaar, which means 'foundation' is a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data. The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the Government of India, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.[1]

Aadhaar is the world's largest biometric ID system, with over 1.19 billion enrolled members as of 30 Nov 2017.[3] As of this date, over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above had been enrolled in Aadhaar.[4] World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer described Aadhaar as "the most sophisticated ID programme in the world".[5] However, owing to increasing concerns around privacy, the potential for surveillance, and exclusion of eligible beneficiaries from welfare schemes from the leveraging of Aadhaar-based systems, the Aadhaar project's validity is being challenged in the Supreme Court of India [6] (as of November 2017).

Prior to the enactment of the Act, UIDAI functioned as an attached office of Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog) since 28 January 2009. On 3 March 2016, a money bill was introduced in the Parliament to give legislative backing to Aadhaar.[7] On 11 March 2016, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016 was passed in the Lok Sabha.[8] On 26 March 2016, this Act was notified in the Gazette of India.[9]

Aadhaar is a proof of residence and not a proof of citizenship. It does not itself grant any rights to domicile in India.[10] In June 2017, the Home Ministry clarified that Aadhaar is not a valid identification document for Indians traveling to Nepal and Bhutan.[11] Despite the comparisons, India's Aadhaar project is nothing like America's Social Security number as it has more uses and fewer safeguards.[12]

On 23 September 2013, the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that "no person should suffer for not getting Aadhaar" as the government cannot deny a service to a resident if s/he does not possess Aadhaar, as it is voluntary and not mandatory.[13] In another interim order on 11 August 2015, the Supreme Court of India ruled that "UIDAI/Aadhaar will not be used for any other purposes except PDS, kerosene and LPG distribution system" (which order was later amended to include Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, all types of pensions schemes, employee provident fund and the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana), and made it clear that even for availing these facilities Aadhaar card will not be mandatory.[14][15][16] On 27 March 2017, the Supreme Court affirmed that Aadhaar can not be mandatory for availing benefits under welfare schemes, though it can be mandatory for other purposes (such as income tax filings, bank accounts etc.).[16] On June 9, 2017, the Supreme Court of India partially read down a legal provision (Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act) which mandated an individual to link their Aadhaar for filing their Income Tax Returns. However reports of exclusion from welfare benefits due to technological breakdown of the Aadhaar system, from various states, have continued to flow. [17]

On 24 August 2017, Indian Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict on Right to Privacy. The Court declared Right to Privacy as a fundamental right which is intrinsic to right to life. The order affects all 134 crore Indians. The apex court overruled previous judgments on the privacy issue and overruled an eight-judge bench judgment in the MP Sharma case and a six-judge bench judgment in Kharak Singh case. Some excerpts from the judgement are given below:[18]

" ...privacy is not lost or surrendered merely because the individual is in a public place. Privacy attaches to the person since it is an essential facet of the dignity of the human being".

" The right of privacy is a fundamental right. It is a right which protects the inner sphere of the individual from interference from both State, and non-State actors and allows the individuals to make autonomous life choices..."

Some civil liberty groups, like Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties and Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), have opposed the project over privacy concerns.[19][20][21]

As of November 2017, a five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court is yet to hear various 'tagged' cases relating to the validity of Aadhaar [22] on various grounds including privacy, surveillance and exclusion from welfare benefits. Despite it's validity being challenged in the court, the central government has pushed (often coerced) citizens to link their Aadhaar numbers with a host of services including mobile sim cards, bank accounts, Employee Provident Fund etc. and a large number of welfare schemes including but not limited to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Public Distribution System, and Old age pensions.[23] Recent reports suggest that HIV patients have been forced to discontinue treatment for fear of identity breach as access to the treatment has become contingent on producing Aadhaar. [24]


The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a statutory authority established on 12 July 2016 by the Government of India under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, under the provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016.[1]

The UIDAI is mandated to assign a 12-digit unique identification (UID) number (termed as Aadhaar) to all the residents of India. The implementation of UID scheme entails generation and assignment of UID to residents; defining mechanisms and processes for interlinking UID with partner databases; operation and management of all stages of UID life cycle; framing policies and procedures for updation mechanism and defining usage and applicability of UID for delivery of various services among others.[25] The number is linked to the resident's basic demographic and biometric information such as photograph, ten fingerprints and two iris scans, which are stored in a centralised database.[26]

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was initially set up by the Government of India in January 2009, as an attached office under aegis of Planning Commission vide its a gazette notification.[25] As per the notification, the UIDAI was given the responsibility to lay down plan and policies to implement UID scheme, to own and operate the UID database and be responsible for its updation and maintenance on an ongoing basis.

The UIDAI data center is located at Industrial Model Township (IMT), Manesar.[27]

Digitally generated Aadhaar Card

Starting with issuing of first UID in September 2010, the UIDAI has been targeting to issue an Aadhaar number to all the residents that (a) is robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and (b) can be verified and authenticated in an easy and cost-effective way online anywhere, anytime.[28] The Government of India in a notification dated 16 December 2010 recognizes the letter issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) containing details of name, address and Aadhaar number, as an officially valid document.[29] It neither aims to replace any existing identity cards nor is it a cognizance of citizenship.[30] Aadhaar neither confers citizenship nor guarantees rights, benefits, or entitlements.[31] Aadhaar is a random number which never starts with a 0 or 1, and is not loaded with profiling or intelligence into identity numbers that makes it insusceptible to fraud, theft and provides privacy in such perspective. The unique ID would also qualify for as a valid ID while availing various government services, like a LPG connection or subsidised ration or kerosene from PDS or benefits under NSAP or pension schemes, e-sign, digital locker,[32] Universal Account Number (UAN) under EPFO;[33] and for some other services, like a SIM card or opening a bank account.[34][35] According to the UIDAI website, any Aadhaar holder or service provider can verify an Aadhaar number for its genuineness through a user-friendly service of UIDAI called Aadhaar Verification Service (AVS) available on its website.[36][37] Also, a resident already enrolled under National Population Register is not required to enrol again for Aadhaar.[38]


As of 15 August 2017, 1.171 billion Aadhaar numbers had been issued.[3] As of this date, more than 99% of the estimated population aged 18 and over had an Aadhaar number assigned, while 73% of 5-18 year olds, and 39% of below 5 year olds had an Aadhaar assigned.[4]

Data below (as of 15 August 2017) is sourced from the State-Wise Saturation Report on the Public Data Portal.[4] Note that the number of Aadhaar numbers "Assigned" in this report appears to be lower than the total issued slightly (likely due to exclusion of invalidated numbers etc.). Percentage figures are with respect to the estimated population in 2017.

Rank State / Union Territory Population No. of

Aadhaar Assigned

 % of Population
INDIA 1,319,788,179 1,144,659,906 87%
1 Delhi 18,110,349 20,964,605 116%
2 Goa 1,517,438 1,530,201 101%
3 Telangana 38,042,884 38,222,963 100%
4 Himachal Pradesh* 7,246,418 7,267,906 100%
5 Punjab* 29,344,896 29,278,893 100%
6 Haryana* 27,744,012 27,465,041 99%
7 Kerala 35,043,531 34,675,038 99%
8 Chandigarh* 1,110,820 1,083,585 98%
9 Uttarakhand 10,956,753 10,600,967 97%
10 Lakshadweep 70,214 67,535 96%
11 Dadra & Nagar Haveli 373,636 354,534 95%
12 A & N Islands 414,057 384,330 93%
13 Puducherry 1,356,199 1,258,411 93%
14 Chhattisgarh 28,125,421 26,092,397 93%
15 Maharashtra 119,581,739 110,000,073 92%
16 West Bengal 96,775,592 88,763,753 92%
17 Tamil Nadu 75,844,451 69,564,118 92%
18 Jharkhand 36,672,687 33,628,199 92%
19 Karnataka 65,426,566 59,978,411 92%
20 Andhra Pradesh 52,380,243 47,992,380 92%
21 Odisha 44,912,901 40,259,355 90%
22 Gujarat 65,805,207 58,592,706 89%
23 Tripura 4,000,638 3,550,329 89%
24 Madhya Pradesh 80,894,777 71,712,571 89%
25 Sikkim 662,250 575,630 87%
26 Rajasthan 76,802,294 64,219,860 84%
27 Uttar Pradesh* 224,558,257 186,013,511 83%
28 Bihar 117,153,097 93,384,994 80%
29 Daman & Diu 264,721 204,640 77%
30 Manipur 2,966,130 2,157,396 73%
31 Mizoram 1,188,971 820,290 69%
32 Arunachal Pradesh 1,506,749 1,035,882 69%
33 Jammu Kashmir 13,477,325 9,132,765 68%
34 Nagaland 2,158,431 1,165,296 54%
35 Meghalaya 3,230,132 353,833 11%
36 Assam 34,068,394 2,307,506 7%


From the beginning of the project in 2009 through March 31, 2017, the government spent a total of 8,793.9 crore (US$1.4 billion) on the Aadhaar project.[2]

Expenditure by UIDAI (by year) [2]
Fiscal year Expenditure
2009-10 262 million (US$4.1 million)
2010-11 2.684 billion (US$42 million)
2011-12 11.875 billion (US$190 million)
2012-13 13.387 billion (US$210 million)
2013-14 15.444 billion (US$240 million)
2014-15 16.153 billion (US$250 million)
2015-16 16.791 billion (US$260 million)
2016-17 11.328 billion (US$180 million)
Total 87.939 billion (US$1.4 billion)

The budgeted amount for the project was reduced to 9.00 billion (US$140 million) in FY17-18 from 20.00 billion (US$310 million) in FY15-16,[2] given the high enrolled percentage.


Previous identity card programs[edit]

In 1999 after the Kargil war, the Kargil Review Committee, headed by security analyst K. Subrahmanyam, was formed to study the state of national security. It submitted its report to the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 7 January 2000.[39] Among its various recommendations, was the proposal that citizens in villages in border region be issued identity cards on a priority basis, later such ID cards should be issued to all people living in border states.[40][41]

A Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by L. K. Advani, was formed to study the recommendations and examine possible implemenatation. The GoM submitted its report in May 2001. It had accepted the recommendation for an id card. The report said that a "multi-purpose National Identity Card" project would be started soon. The card would be first issued in border villages and then elsewhere.[41][42] In late September 2001, the Ministry of External Affairs proposed that a mandatory national identity card be issued. This announcement came after reports that some people had multiple Indian passports with different details. This was attributed to the lack of computerisation between the passport centres.[43][44] In December 2003, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2003 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by L. K. Advani. It primarily aims to provide various rights to persons of Indian origin.[45] However, the bill also introduced the Clause 14 (a) that said "The Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue national identity card to him."[41][46][47][48]


The UIDAI was established on 28 January 2009 after the Planning Commission issued a notification. On 23 June 2009, Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys, was appointed by the then government, UPA to head the project. He was given the newly created position of the Chairman of UIDAI which was equivalent to a Cabinet minister.[49][34][50] In April 2010, the logo and the brand name Aadhaar was launched by Nilekani.[51] In May 2010, Nilekani said he would support a legislation to protect the data held by the UIDAI.[52]

In July 2010, UIDAI published a list 15 of agencies which were qualified to provide training to personnel to be involved in the enrolment process. It also published a list of 220 agencies which were qualified to take part in the enrolment process. Before this, the project had been only 20 states and with LIC of India and State Bank of India as qualified registrars. This announcement introduced several private firms. It was estimated that to achieve the target of enrolling 40% of the population in two years, 31,019 personnel would be required and 155 training centres would be required to train them. It was also estimated that 4,431 enrolment centres and 22,157 enrolment stations would have to be established.[53]

On 7 February 2012, the UIDAI launched an online verification system for Aadhaar numbers. Using the system banks, telecom companies and government departments could enter an Aadhaar number and verify if the person was a resident of India.[54]

On 26 November 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched an Aadhaar-linked direct benefit transfer scheme. The project aimed to eliminate leakages in the system by directly transferring the money to the bank account of the recipient. The project was to be introduced in 51 districts on 1 January 2013 and then slowly expanded to cover all of India.[55][56]

In late November 2012, a former Karnataka High Court judge, K. S. Puttaswamy, and a lawyer, Parvesh Khanna, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the government in the Supreme Court of India. They had contended that the government was implementing the project without any legislative backing. They pointed out that the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 which introduced in the Rajya Sabha was still pending then.[57] They further said that since UIDAI was running on only an executive order issued on 28 January 2009, it cannot collect biometric data of citizens as it would be a violation of privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.[58] In December 2011, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, led by Yashwant Sinha, rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in its form before them and suggested modifications. It termed the project "unethical and violative of Parliament's prerogatives".[59] On 23 September 2013, the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that the government cannot deny a service to anyone who does not possess Aadhaar, as it is voluntary.[13][60][61]

In late September 2013, following the Supreme Court verdict, Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajeev Shukla said that the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 would be attempted to be passed in the winter session of the Parliament.[62] On 9 October 2013, the National Payments Corporation of India launched an Aadhaar-based remittance system. Using the system funds could be transferred to any Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, if only the Aadhaar number was known. It was announced that an SMS could be used for amounts up to 5,000 (US$78) and for amounts over that a mobile bank app could be used. By this time around 440 million Aadhaar numbers had been issued.[63]

In March 2014, Nandan Nilekani resigned as the Chairman to contest in the general election on an Indian National Congress nomination from Bangalore South.[64] His responsibilities taken over by 1981-batch IAS officer Vijay Madan, who was given an extension of his term as the director-general and mission director by the government.[65] Nilekani lost to Ananth Kumar.[66]


Before elections in March 2014, BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi and general secretary Ananth Kumar had criticised the project for issuing Aadhaar to illegal immigrants. Lekhi pointed out that project continued to be run even after a parliamentary committee voted against and despite the Supreme Court order.[67] Subramanian Swamy, another BJP leader and economist, said that UIDAI was a useless scheme and Nilekani should be prosecuted for wasting resources by hiring US firms.[68][69]

On 10 June 2014, the new government disbanded four Cabinet Committees to streamline the decision making process; among them was also the Cabinet Committee on Aadhaar.[70] Also in June 2014, the IT Department held a meeting with the secretaries of the states to receive feedback on the project.[71]

On 1 July 2014, the former UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani met with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to convince them of the project's merits.[72] On 5 July 2014, Modi announced that his government retain the project and asked official to look into linking the project with passports.[73] The Budget, allotted 20.3964 billion (US$320 million) to the project for the fiscal year 2014-15. It was a substantial increase from the previous year's 15.50 billion (US$240 million).[74] Also in July, it was reported that UIDAI would hire an advertising agency and spend about 300 million (US$4.7 million) on an advertising campaign.[75]

On 10 September 2014, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave approval to the Phase-V of the UIDAI project, starting the enrolment process in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.[76] The Union Cabinet allocated 12 billion (US$190 million) to the project in order to reach the target of 1 billion enrolments by the end of 2015.[77]

On 18 June 2015, in a high-level review meeting on the progress of the UID project and DBT scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the officials to accelerate the delivery of benefits and expand the applications of the Aadhaar (UID) platform. He also asked them to examine the possibility of incentivizing the states, through a one-time sharing of a portion of the savings. It was reported that the government was saving up to 14-15% in the direct benefit transfers of subsidies on LPG to the beneficiaries through Aadhaar.[78]

Finding the experience with DBT scheme in LPG "very encouraging" with a reported savings to the tune of 127 billion (US$2.0 billion) to the public exchequer this year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 5 July 2015, said, "If we can realize the government's JAM—Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile—vision we can ensure that money goes directly and more quickly into the pockets of the poor and from the savings we achieve, we can put even more money for the poor. If we can be careful in our design and implementation, we can extend DBT to other commodities, so that the poor get more money to spend for their upliftment." [79]

In March 2015, the Aadhaar-linked DigiLocker service was launched, using which Aadhaar-holders can scan and save their documents on the cloud, and can share it with the government officials whenever required without any need to carry them.[80]


During the budget presentation on 29 February 2016, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that a bill will be introduced within a week to provide legislative support to the Aadhaar.[81] On 3 March 2016, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Parliament as a money bill by Jaitley.[7] The decision to introduce it as a money bill was criticised by the opposition parties. Ghulam Nabi Azad, an INC leader, wrote in a letter to the Jaitley that the ruling party, BJP was attempting to bypass the Rajya Sabha, as they did not have the majority in the upper house. A money bill is only required to pass in the lower house Lok Sabha.[82] Tathagata Satpathy of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) raised concerns that the project could be used for mass surveillance or ethnic cleansing in the future.[83]

On 11 March 2016, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016, was passed in the Lok Sabha.[8] During the Rajya Sabha debate on 16 March, Sitaram Yechury of CPI-M said that bill should not have been passed when the issue right to privacy was still in the Supreme Court.[84] On 16 March 2016, the bill was returned to the Lok Sabha by the Rajya Sabha with some suggested amendments. The Lok Sabha was free to accept or reject the amendments.[85] But, Lok Sabha rejected the amendments.[86]

Direct Benefit transfer (DBT)[edit]

Aadhaar project has been linked to some public subsidy and unemployment benefit schemes like the domestic LPG scheme and MGNREGA. In these Direct Benefit Transfer schemes, the subsidy money is directly transferred to a bank account which is Aadhaar-linked.[87][88] However, direct-benefit transfer was carried out quite successfully in the past via the National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) system which did not depend on Aadhaar.

On 29 July 2011, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas signed a memorandum of understanding with UIDAI. The Ministry had hoped the ID system would help them eliminate loss of the subsidised kerosene and LPG.[89] In May 2012, the government announced that it will begin issuing Aadhaar-linked MGNREGS cards.[88] On 26 November 2012, a pilot project was launched in 51 district.[55]

Under the original policy for liquified petroleum gas subsidies, the customers bought gas cylinders from retailers at subsidised prices, and the government compensated companies for their losses. Under the current Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL), introduced in 2013, customers had to buy at the full price, and the subsidy would be then directly credited to their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. This scheme, however, did not take off, as in September 2013, a Supreme Court order put a halt on it.[13] Subsequently, GOI constituted a committee to review the "Direct Benefits Transfer for LPG Scheme"[90] to study the shortcomings in the scheme and recommend changes. The DBTL scheme was modified later as PAHAL by the new government in November 2014. Under PAHAL, subsidies could be credited to one's bank account even if the one did not have an Aadhaar number. Official data show that cooking gas consumption during the January–June period grew at a slower 7.82%, nearly four percentage points less than 11.4% growth in the same period last year.[91][92]

The PAHAL scheme has covered 118.9 million of the 145.4 million active LPG consumers till March, as stated by the Petroleum Minister in the Parliament. Thereby, the DBT has become a "game changer" for India, claimed the Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry, Government of India, Arvind Subramanian, for in case of LPG subsidy, DBT had resulted in a 24% reduction in the sale of subsidized LPG, as "ghost beneficiaries" had been excluded. The savings to the government were to the tune of 127 billion (US$2.0 billion) in 2014-15.[93] The success of the modified scheme helped fuel marketing companies save almost 80 billion (US$1.2 billion) from November 2014 to June 2015, said oil company officials.[91] The DBT for the public distribution system (PDS) will be rolled out in September 2015.[93]

The government's own data however suggests that the cost of implementing the DBT for LPG was over a million dollars, a figure quite at odds with the savings figures that the government cites. [94]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for integration of all land records with Aadhaar at the earliest, emphasising at his monthly PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) meeting on 23 March 2016 that this is extremely important to monitor the successful implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana or crop insurance scheme.[95]

Aadhaar-enabled biometric attendance systems[edit]

In July 2014, Aadhaar-enabled biometric attendance systems was introduced in government offices. The system was introduced to check late arrival and absenteeism of government employees. The public could see the daily in and out of employees on the website attendance.gov.in.[96][97][98] However, in October 2014, the website was closed to the public but is now (as on 24 March 2016) active and open to public access.[99] The employees use the last four digits (last eight digits for government employee registering as of August 2016) of their Aadhaar number and their fingerprints, for authentication.[100]

Technological glitches with the system have however meant that employees have to often spend

Other uses by central government agencies[edit]

In November 2014, it was reported the Ministry for External Affairs was considering making Aadhaar a mandatory requirement for passport holders.[101] In February 2015, it was reported that people with Aadhaar number will get their passports issued within 10 days, as it allowed the verification process to be easier by checking if applicant had any criminal records in the National Crime Records Bureau database.[102] In May 2015, it was announced that the Ministry of External Affairs was testing the linking of passports to the Aadhaar database.[103]

In October 2014, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology said that they were considering linking Aadhaar to SIM cards.[104] In November 2014, the Department of Telecom asked all telecom operators to collect Aadhaar from all new applicants of SIM cards.[105] On 4 March 2015, Aadhaar-linked SIM cards began to be sold in some cities in a pilot project. The purchase could activate the SIM at the time of purchase by submitting his Aadhaar number and pressing his fingerprints on a machine.[106] It is part of the Digital India plan. The Digital India project aims to provide all government services to citizens electronically and is expected to be completed by 2018.[106][107]

In July 2014, Employees' Provident Fund Organisation of India (EPFO) began linking provident fund accounts with Aadhaar numbers.[33] In November 2014, EPFO became an UIDAI registrar and began issuing Aadhaar number to provident fund subscribers.[108] In December 2014, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya clarified that an Aadhaar number was not necessary for any provident fund transaction.[109]

In August 2014, Prime Minister Modi directed the Planning Commission of India to enroll all prisoners in India under UIDAI.[110]

In December 2014, it was proposed by the Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi that Aadhaar should be made mandatory for men to create a profile on matrimonial websites, to prevent fake profiles.[111] In July 2015, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) called a meeting of meeting of various matrimonial sites and other stakeholders discuss the use of Aadhaar to prevent fake profile and protect women from exploitation.[112]

On 3 March 2015, the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) of the Election Commission was started. It aims to link the Elector's Photo Identity Card (EPIC) with the Aadhaar number of the registered voter. It is aims to create an error-free voter identification system in India, especially by removing duplications.[113][114]

Other uses by states[edit]

In Hyderabad region of Telangana state, Aadhaar numbers were linked to ration cards to remove duplicate ration cards. The project was started in July 2012 and was carried out despite the 2013 Supreme Court order. More than 63,932 ration cards in the white category, and 2,29,757 names were removed from its database in the drive between July 2012 and September 2014.[115][116][117] In August 2012, Andhra Pradesh, asked citizens to surrender illegal ration cards, before it began to link them with Aadhaar numbers. By September 2014, 15 lakh illegal ration cards had been surrendered.[118][119] In April 2015, the state of Maharashtra began enrolling all school students in the state in the Aadhaar project to implement the Right to Education Act properly.[120]

Electronic-Know Your Customer (e-KYC) using Aadhaar card is also being introduced to activate mobile connections instantly to check Aadhaar Card Status.

Format of Aadhaar card[edit]

The full Aadhaar card is a colour document (referred to as the Aadhaar letter),[121] often printed on glossy paper that is also obtainable electronically online via PDF. According to the government, a black and white version of the document is valid.[122] It is printed on A4 paper and folded in half in portrait (to produce a front and back) that is approximately 93mm by 215mm once margins are removed. Some agencies may laminate the document for no more than 30. It has a cutoff card sized portion at the bottom with the key information. Some individual agencies produce and charge for a PVC card version (cut-off of the bottom section) falsely marketed as a smartcard despite caution from the government.[122]

Top section (letter)

  1. Heading: Unique Identification Authority of India, Government of India. (In state language and English)
  2. Enrolment No
  3. Full name of Holder (In state language and English)
  4. Name of father (or husband)
  5. Address
  6. Phone number
  7. A PDF electronic signature self-signed by the "UNIQUE IDENTIFICATION AUTHORITY OF INDIA"
  8. A QR code
  9. Download Date and Generation Date
  10. Aadhaar No (In state language and English)
  11. On the rear, Emblem of the Republic of India and logo of AADHAAR
  12. General information about the Aadhaar card: (In state language and English)
    • Aadhaar is a proof of identity, not of citizenship.
    • To establish identity, authenticate online.
    • This is electronically generated letter.
    • Aadhaar is valid throughout the country.
    • Aadhaar will be helpful in availing Government and Non-Government services in future.

Bottom section (a cutoff card sized paper)

  1. Front heading: Government of India (In state language and English), with Emblem
  2. Photograph of the holder
  3. Full Name (In state language and English)
  4. Date of Birth (In state language and English)
  5. Gender (In state language and English)
  6. A QR Code
  7. Aadhaar No (In state language and English)
  8. Rear heading: Unique Identification Authority of India (In state language and English), with logo
  9. Name of father (or husband)
  10. Address (In state language and English)
  11. Aadhaar Number (In state language and English)

The QR Code contains an encoded version of some of the data in XML format in English only:

  1. UID - Aadhaar number
  2. Full name of holder
  3. Gender
  4. Year of birth
  5. Name of father (or husband)
  6. Address
  7. Full date of birth

Aadhaar as digital identity[edit]

A number of features make the Aadhaar card a digital identity, and facilitate digital identity.

  1. The document of the card itself is electronic in PDF format,
  2. A QR Code provides digital XML representation of some core details of the card.
  3. The number and some limited details can be validated online (with the notable exclusion of the name),
  4. Updating details can be done electronically using a mobile phone number and/or email as the second factor of authentication,
  5. The system collects a photo, all 10 finger scans, and eye scan, however there is no known common usage of this data to date to electronically validate a holder.

Impediments and other concerns[edit]

Feasibility concerns[edit]

In October 2010, R. Ramakumar, an economist at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences,[123] wrote in an editorial for The Hindu that the project was being implemented without any cost-benefit or feasibility studies to ensure whether the project will meet its stipulated goals. He also pointed the government was obscuring the security aspects of Aadhaar and focusing on the social benefit schemes. He quoted former chief of the Intelligence Bureau Ajit Doval who had said that originally Aadhaar aimed to weed out illegal aliens.[41]

In March 2011, Rajanish Dass of IIM Ahmedabad's Computer and Information Systems Group, published a paper titled "Unique Identity Project in India: A divine dream or a miscalculated heroism". Dass claimed that even if enrolment is voluntary, it is being made mandatory by indirect means. He pointed out that essential schemes like the National Food Security Act, 2013 was being linked to UIDAI. He also pointed the feasibility of a project of this size had not been studied and raised concerns about the quality of the biometric data being collected. He cited another researcher Usha Ramanathan that UIDAI will ultimately have to become profit-making to sustain itself.[124][125]

On 9 November 2012, the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) published a paper titled A cost-benefit analysis of Aadhaar. The paper claimed that by 2015-16 the benefits of the project will surpass the costs, and by 2020-21 the total benefit would be 251 billion (US$3.9 billion) against the total expenditure of 48.35 billion (US$750 million). The benefits would come from plugging leakages in various subsidy and social benefit schemes.[126][127]

On 02 February 2013, Reetika Khera, a development economist at IIT Delhi, published a paper in the Economic and Political Weekly titled A 'Cost-Benefit' Analysis of UID, in response to the cost-benefit analysis published by NIPFP. She argued that the seemingly large benefits were based 'almost entirely on unrealistic assumptions' and outdated data. Importantly, the paper pointed to how the relative cost-effectiveness of Aadhaar in comparison with alternative technologies - the basic premise of any cost-benefit analysis - was entirely ignored. Further, concerns regarding a possible conflict of interest were also raised.[128]

In March 2016, the International Institute for Sustainable Development released a report that the benefit from Aadhaar-linked LPG subsidy scheme for 2014-15 was 140 million (US$2.2 million) and for 2015-16 was 1.209 billion (US$19 million). This sum was much lower than the number stated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Lok Sabha. He had said in March 2016 that the government had saved 150 billion (US$2.3 billion) from the scheme. The paper said that the government was also including the savings from the efforts of oil marketing companies (OMCs) prior to the introduction of Aadhaar. The method used by the OMCs to weed out duplicates and ghost customers was 15–20 times more effective than the Aadhaar-based method.[129]

Lack of legislation and privacy concerns[edit]

On 2 February 2015, the Supreme Court asked the new government to clarify its stance on the project. This was in response to a new PIL filed by Mathew Thomas, a former army officer. Thomas had claimed that government was ignoring previous orders while pushing ahead with the project and that the project was unconstitutional as it allowed profiling of citizens. The government in a reply on 12 February said that it will continue the project.[130][131] On 16 July 2015, the government requested the Supreme Court to revoke its order, saying that it intends to use Aadhaar for various services.[132] On 21 July 2015, the Court noted that some states were insisting on Aadhaar for benefits despite its order.[133]

On 11 August 2015, the Supreme Court directed the government to widely publicise in print and electronic media that Aadhaar is not mandatory for any welfare scheme. The Court also referred the petitions claiming Aadhaar is unconstitutional to a Constitutional Bench.[134]

On 24 August 2017, the Supreme Court upholds right to privacy as a fundamental right. Supreme Court had ruled out it as a fundamental right under the Constitution. The nine-judge bench of the SC has unanimously held that privacy is a fundamental right.[135]

Legality of sharing data with law enforcement[edit]

In 2013 Goa, the CBI was trying to solve the case of a rape of a schoolgirl. It approached a Goa local court saying that they had acquired some fingerprints from the scene and they could be matched with the UIDAI database. The court asked UIDAI to hand over all data of all persons in Goa to CBI.[136][137]

The UIDAI appealed in the Bombay High Court saying that accepting such a request would set precedent for several more such requests. The High Court rejected the argument and on 26 February 2014 in an interim order directed Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) to study technological capability of the database to see if it can solve such a crime. The UIDAI then appealed in the Supreme Court. It argued that the chance of a false positive was 0.057% and with 600 million people in its database it would result in hundreds of thousands of false results.[137][138]

The Supreme Court, on 24 March 2014, restrained the central government and the Unique Identification Authority of India from sharing data with any third party or agency, whether government or private, without the consent of the Aadhaar-holder in writing. Vide another interim order dated 16 March 2015, the Supreme Court of India has directed the Union of India and States and all their functionaries should adhere to the order passed by this court on 23 September 2013. It observed that some government agencies were still treating Aadhaar as mandatory and asked all agencies to issue notifications clarifying that it was not mandatory.[136]

Land Allotment Dispute[edit]

In September 2013, the Delhi Development Authority accepted a complaint from the India Against Corruption activist group and cancelled a land allotment to UIDAI. The land was previously owned by BSNL, and MTNL had also laid claims on it. It was of an estimated 9 billion (US$140 million) value, but it had been allotted to UIDAI at a very cheap rate.[139]

The issue of constructing UIDAI HQs and UIDAI Regional Office, Delhi's building was resolved with Department of Telecom (DoT). Following which, the Ministry of Urban Development has issued a notification on 21 May 2015 clearing the titles of the land in favour of UIDAI including land use.[140]

Security concerns[edit]

In an August 2009 interview with the Tehelka, former chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Ajit Doval, said that it was originally intended to flush out illegal immigrants, but social security benefits were later added to avoid privacy concerns.[141] In December 2011, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, led by Yashwant Sinha, rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 and suggested modifications. It expressed objections to the issuing of Aadhaar numbers to illegal immigrants. The Committee said that the project was being implemented in an unplanned manner and by bypassing the Parliament.[59]

In May 2013, deputy director general of UIDAI, Ashok Dalwai, admitted that there had been some errors in the registration process. Some people had received Aadhaar cards with wrong photographs or fingerprints.[142] According to Aloke Tikku of Hindustan Times, some officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had criticised the UIDAI project in September 2013. The unnamed IB officials have said that Aadhaar number cannot be treated as a credible proof of residence. As under the liberal pilot phase, where a person claims to live was accepted as the address and recorded.[143]

Overlaps with National Population Register[edit]

The Aadhaar and the similar National Population Register (NPR) projects have been reported to be having conflicts. In January 2012, it was reported that UIDAI will share its data with NPR and NPR will continue to collect its own data.[144] In January 2013, then Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that Aadhaar was not an identity card but a number, while NPR was necessary for national security purposes.[145] The 2013 Supreme Court order did not affect the NPR project as it was not linked to any subsidy.[146]

In July 2014, a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of merging the two projects Aadhaar and NPR, or making them complementary. The meeting was attended by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Law and Justice and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of State for Planning Rao Inderjit Singh.[147] However, later in the same month, Rao Inderjit Singh told the Lok Sabha that no plan to merge the two projects has been made.[148]


In order to make Aadhaar accessible to often undocumented poorer citizens, obtaining an Aadhaar card does not require significant documentation, with multiple options available. In theory, the use of biometric facilities should reduce or eliminate duplication. So, in theory while it may be possible to obtain the card under a false name, it is less likely to be able to obtain another Aadhaar card under a different (or real) name.

The Aadhaar card itself is not a secure document (being printed on paper) and according to the agency should not be treated as an Identity card,[149] nevertheless it is often treated as such, however with currently no practical way to validate the card (e.g. by Police at airport entry locations) it is of questionable utility as an Identity card. "There are five main components in an Aadhaar app transaction – the customer, the vendor, the app, the back-end validation software, and the Aadhaar system itself. There are also two main external concerns – the security of the data at rest on the phone and the security of the data in transit. At all seven points, the customer’s data is vulnerable to attack ... The app and validation software are insecure, the Aadhaar system itself is insecure, the network infrastructure is insecure, and the laws are inadequate." claims Bhairav Acharya, Program Fellow, New America.[150]

The Aadhaar card is usually simply printed on glossy paper, and the government has stated black and white copies are valid. Some agencies charge extra to laminate the document. Other agencies have been reported charging 50 to 200 to produce a PVC version of the card, and it is marketed by them as a smart card, despite having no official validity and no chip.[151]

Certain mobile apps claim to verify an Aadhaar card using a QR code scanner. However the QR code is not a secure representation of an Aadhaar card either and can be copied and edited. The only way to validate an Aadhaar card is to perform an online validation, that will confirm that the card number is valid, confirm the postal code and gender of the holder (but not their name or photo). In theory this means that is possible to create a false Aadhaar card using the number of a genuine holder from the same postal code with the same gender, with the card subject to a number of cases of counterfeiting.[152]

The digital document itself is self-signed by a non-internationally recognised certificate authority (n)Code Solutions, a division of Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers Company Ltd (GNFC)[153] and needs to be manually installed on the PC.[154] This is despite Entrust assisting on the development of the solution.[155]

Application issues[edit]

While the service is free for citizens, some agents have been charging fees.[156] Despite the modern processes there are cases where enrolments are lost in the system without explanation.[157] mAadhaar is official mobile application developed by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to provide an interface to Aadhaar Number Holders to carry their demographic information viz. Name, Date of Birth, Gender & Address along with photograph as linked with their Aadhaar Number in smart phones.[158] In one case, every resident in a village in Haridwar was assigned a birthday of January 1. [159]


Documentary proof may be difficult to obtain, with the system requiring documents such as bank accounts, Insurance policies, driving licences etc. that themselves increasingly require an Aadhaar card to originate, or similar documentary evidence as an Aadhaar card.[160] This may lead to a significant minority underclass of undocumented citizens who will find it harder to obtain necessary services.[161] Introducers and Heads of family may also assist in documentation, however for many agencies and legitimate applications, this facility may not be practical.[162]

Non resident Indians, Overseas citizens of India and other resident foreigners may also find it difficult to avail of services they could previously freely obtain, such as local SIM cards,[163] despite assurances to the contrary.[164]

Data Leaks[edit]

The amount of detailed personal information being collected is of extremely high importance to an individual. However once collected, it is not being treated with the required sensitivity of privacy[165] concerns. Major financial transactions are linked with information collected in Aadhaar. Data leaks are a gold mine for hackers and criminals who now use sophisticated hackers. Government department and various other agencies that collect this information, banks, etc. using this information cannot be trusted to maintain the secrecy with all this collected information.[166] Another case wherein Aadhaar data collected by Reliance Jio was leaked online, and may now be widely available with hackers.[167][168] UIDAI confirms more than 200 government websites were publicly displaying confidential Aadhaar data - though removed now, data leaked cannot be scrubbed from hackers database.[169] On 2017 July the Aadhaar Card of privacy Issue was discussed at Supreme Court.[170] [171] A report from Center for Internet and Society suggests about 135million Indians records may have been leaked.[172]

Wikileaks tweeted on August 25, 2017 that the same American supplier of fingerprint and Iris scanning equipment that collaborated with the CIA to identify Osama Bin Laden was also supplying equipment to India.[173] The complex structure of ownerships is detailed in an article in Fountainink.in[174] Concerns were raised way back in 2011 in Sunday Guardian regarding not following due process and handing over contracts to entities with links to FBI and having past history of leaking data across countries.[175] How CIA can hack and access the Aadhaar database using secret Expresslane project is documented in a report on GGInews website [176] and saved in an archive lest it be forcefully removed.[177] Further communications has also identified the clauses under which data may have freely flowed to foreign agencies due to the nature and wordings in the Aadhaar contracts [178] and archived here [179]

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Aadhaar mess up: Maharashtra govt freezes farm loan waiver to reverify beneficiaries

Further reading[edit]

Supportive views[edit]

Critical views[edit]


External links[edit]