India institutes national ID card
As many countries have debated introducing ID cards, one of the greatest arguments against has been the enomously complicated logistics putting an entire country’s information into one database. India, though, is about to test just how tough this challenge really is. It is surely the biggest Big Brother project yet conceived. India is to issue ...
As many countries have debated introducing ID cards, one of the greatest arguments against has been the enomously complicated logistics putting an entire country’s information into one database. India, though, is about to test just how tough this challenge really is.
It is surely the biggest Big Brother project yet conceived. India is to issue each of its 1.2 billion citizens, millions of whom live in remote villages and possess no documentary proof of existence, with cyber-age biometric identity cards.
The Government in Delhi recently created the Unique Identification Authority, a new state department charged with the task of assigning every living Indian an exclusive number. It will also be responsible for gathering and electronically storing their personal details, at a predicted cost of at least £3 billion.
The task will be led by Nandan Nilekani, the outsourcing sage who coined the phrase “the world is flat”, which became a mantra for supporters of globalisation. “It is a humongous, mind-boggling challenge,” he told The Times. “But we have the opportunity to give every Indian citizen, for the first time, a unique identity. We can transform the country.”
If the cards were piled on top of each other they would be 150 times as high as Mount Everest — 1,200 kilometres.
Perhaps just as interestingly, unlike many states where ID cards have been pushed on grounds of national security and/or immigration, in India the biggest issue is welfare.
India’s legions of local bureaucrats currently issue at least 20 proofs of identity, including birth certificates, driving licences and ration cards. None is accepted universally and moving from one state to the next can easily render a citizen officially invisible — a disastrous predicament for the millions of poor who rely on state handouts to survive.
India is not the largest state with such a scheme: China introduced a national ID card in 1984, but the first version of its Resident ID card ran into serious trouble with counterfeiters, and only recently has China begun to create a similarly powerful database of personal information. But with India’s acceptance of ID cards, Australia, Japan, and the United States are the most prominent countries without any plans to issue national ID cards.
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