Thursday, 23 March 2017

Unified Multipurpose ID Number (UMID) A Challenge for Prime Minister Modi

(Downloaded from internet)

In several countries, developed as well as developing, every citizen has only one identification number. In Canada it is called Social Insurance Number (SIN) which is provided by government after collecting biometric data which are stored centrally. Started for the administration of the Canada Pension Plan, it is used as a personal ID number for several other purposes such as government welfare programmes, opening bank account, availing of financial services, issue of passport, filing income tax return, as voter identity card, etc. Since information about all important activities are sent to the Central databank, gradually all the requisites information about a citizen can be obtained at the click of button. This enables issue of passport within 24 hours of filing of application.

    To stop collection of biometric data by several agencies and issue of different ID number, Indonesia and Philippine introduced multi-purpose ID number in 2004 and 2010, respectively. In Indonesia single ID is used for issue of passport, driving licence, insurance policy, etc. Separate identification numbers are given to non-citizens. In Philippine Unified Multi-Purpose ID (UMID) is used for social security system, government insurance system, as voter’s ID, etc.

Unfortunately in India, we still have multiplicity of numbers and multiplicity of agencies collecting biometric data. Your biometric data are collected for passport. Again, your biometric data are collected for providing Aadhaar number. Shortly, biometric data would be collected for National Population Register.  The state government authorities too collect personal details, photographs and finger prints for registration of property and issuing driving licence. Every time one opens a bank account or wants to avail of financial services, he/she has to furnish copies of several documents and KYC form. From time to time bank requires fresh KYC form.  The situation is so bad because the government does not maintain a central databank, as in several other countries, to provide unified ID number.  Multiplication of collection of biometric data and issue of different ID numbers for different purposes means huge wastage of time and money. Prime Minister has initiated measures to reduce duplication but there is need for better coordination and convergence.

I appeal to all citizens to join the campaign to request the Prime Minister to consider five suggestions.

(1)               There should be only one multipurpose ID Number for all welfare schemes, financial services, issue of passport, registration of property, issue of driving licence, etc. It may be called Unique Multipurpose ID Number (UMIN).

(2)               Collection and storage of biometric data should be the responsibility of the Central government. The UMIN should be used for all government welfare programmes, issue of passport and driving licence, financial services, property registration, filing income tax return, etc. There are two important reasons why sovereign functions should not be privatized or outsourced: (a) avoidance of mistakes which people have experienced in Aadhaar cards; (b) maintenance of privacy and to guard against possible misuse.
(3)               UMIN should be only for Indian citizens. If non-citizens also need identification number, that should be done separately.
(4)               The data already collected by the Ministry of External Affairs for issue of passport and by the Planning Commission for issue of Aadhaar cards should be merged after making necessary corrections. Large number of Aadhaar cards contain mistakes. Aadhaar card holders should be instructed to write to the authorities about the mistakes to be correctedThe Ministry of External Affairs should be instructed to make the biometric data (being collected for issue/renewal of passport) available for the issue of UMIN to avoid duplication.  Same data should be used for National Population Register.

(5)               Information about all economic and other important activities should ultimately be linked to single identification number centrally stored so that gradually all the requisites information about every citizen are  available at the click of button and financial service providers do not ask for separate KYC form. Such a step will also make the task of security and investigating agencies easier. Similar Measures should be taken for non-citizens.
   Implementation of these suggestions would result in enormous saving of money, time, manpower, paper for printing and photographs and therefore forest, etc. Life would become much easier. There would be no crowd in sub-registrar’s office for registration of properties or in any passport office, to name only a few. The Central Government has decided to abolish the system of issue of driving licence by the existing licencing authorities. The central data bank would facilitate the task of the alternative authorities. There would be drastic reduction, if not total abolition, in the number of touts/middlemen and corruption.

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Devendra  Narain

A retired civil servant

(This article was originally written and circulated in October 2014. The issue is still valid.)
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