In the 1960s, a document such as a ration card was taken as an identity proof. Later, when the election commission started issuing the voter identity card, it became the identity document. After the Kargil war, the review committee on security prepared a report recommending that identity cards should be made mandatory. The rationale to make them compulsory was to check illegal immigrants. The government accepted the report in 2001 and we started with a pilot project in 2003.
It took us six years to implement the pilot project, from collecting data to the delivery of smart cards. The outcome of the pilot suggested that proving the citizenship is very difficult in our country. In rural areas, people don’t have even a single document to prove they are citizens of India.
A group of ministers in 2007-08 recommended that we should have a ‘national population register’ (NPR) first. The aim was to have a single database in place. Every department has its own data, but they all work in silos and don’t talk to each other.
So we proposed the unique identity scheme, which originally was based on the amalgamation of three databases – the voter list, the database of public distribution system (PDS) and the below poverty line (BPL) database.
After 26/11, we were asked to pre-pone the rollout. Initially we had to deliver the smart cards in coastal areas. The entire software development was in-house; it was completely indigenous. More than 2.5 million cards have been produced and sent to residents.
Presently we are providing cards to residents because we can add citizenship in the database later. The final decision is yet to be taken. But as per the mandate from the government, we are going ahead. Our main scheme for issuing the smart card is under active consideration by the government.
According to various statements in parliament and the budget speech of the finance minister, it is clear that the government is actively considering issuing smart cards with Aadhaar numbers on them. This will enable a service delivery platform through a single card.
Video of Smart Cards: The Ticket to Smart Governance