Controversial biometric project in India may go ahead

The largest biometric identification projects in the world — India’s attempt to give an ID number to 1 billion people linked to fingerprint and iris scans — may be going ahead under the new government.

According to Computerworld U.S., the winning Bharatiya Janata Party had said during last spring’s election campaign that it would review the controversial program for a secure ID to get government benefits. However, this week it approved a 2015 target for voluntary enrollments, signalling that it will back the project.

The story quotes the government saying in a statement on Wednesday that the project “aims to ensure inclusive growth by providing digital, online, verifiable identity to all residents, including marginalized sections of society.

The biometric ID gives a person a 12-digit number called the Aadhaar number. The government requires the prints of  all 10 fingers,  iris scans and the usual personal information (name, date of birth and address).

The Aadhaar number is designed to replace traditional paper ration cards that are usually inaccurate, and misused to benefit people who do not qualify for subsidies.

One problem has been a ruling from India’s Supreme Court, which issued an interim order last September that people cannot be required to have the Aadhaar identification to collect state subsidies.

Before the government can expand the scheme, according to the report, it will have to be backed by a law passed by India’s Parliament, rather than the current executive order, legal experts say. It will also have to get the Supreme Court to change its order.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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