"I think we have good processes but remember we are a country where even today there are millions of people who don't have any form of identity, and we have been able to bring them into the system, otherwise they will be outsiders because they don't have an acknowledged existence. They can't apply for their PDS; they can't get a bank account."
--Nandan Nilekani, former UIDAI chairman, in 2012.
One of the key objectives of India's massive biometric identity programme was inclusion--bring into the world of subsidies, cash transfers and other state benefits those millions of Indians without any documentation. The problem was simple--to obtain most government documentation, you needed a list of other government documents. If you had none, it was virtually impossible to get a start.
But now, 6 years later, after covering 70% of the population (84 crore cards issued, as of May 2015), it has emerged that people without any prior identification documents who have managed to included through UIDAI, are a mere 0.03% of the cards issued (2.19 lakhs out of 83.19 crore issued). In other words, the Aadhar number has turned out, for more than 99% of card holders, to be little more than the third identification document they possessed (they needed two existing ids to get an Aadhar card).
UIDAI had developed an "introducer" system where people without an existing ID could get an Aaadhar card through someone who knew them and could vouch for them. But the new information, brought to light through a Right to Information query by Ujjainee Sharma and Trishna Senapaty, shows how little this feature has been used. There is perhaps inadequate awareness about it.
Aadhar is one of the rare UPA-era programmes that the Modi government has embraced enthusiastically.