The national ID program The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was started by the UPA government in 2009 which collected the biometric and other data from residents and issued a 12 digit identification number called Aadhaar. Aadhaar under the leadership of Nandan Nilekani, the co founder of Infosys was started with the aim of to delivering better services to the people of India.
After initially opposing the need for such a system and expressing other reservations, the BJP after coming to power in May 2014 threw its weight behind the project and is encouraging every resident of India to enroll for Aadhaar. The program is not only for residents of India but also open to NRIs, person of Indian origin, overseas citizens of India and foreigners living in India.
It has been used to link bank accounts of citizens of India to deliver benefits like LPG subsidies directly to their bank account that is linked to the Aadhaar card. The card is not a proof of citizenship of India.
While the card is intended for delivering subsidies and other services for citizens of India especially the poor and underprivileged, the process to make the Aadhaar by providing proof of address and more importantly photo, fingerprints and retina scan can be used to fight crime and terrorism.
Although there is a Supreme Court order of not making Aadhaar linked to all government services and that it should not be mandatory for people of India to get an Aadhaar card, in the interest of national security and to fight and prevent crime and terrorism, it should be made mandatory for all residents of India, citizens or otherwise to enroll for Aadhaar and there should be a system in place for both newborn and new migrants into India to enroll for Aadhaar. Already 85% of the population of India has registered with Aadhaar which is about 1.05 billion people out of an estimated population of 1.25 billion.
India should develop a system like the one in the United States, The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) a national automated fingerprint identification and criminal history system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent searching capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses. IAFIS is the largest biometric database in the world, housing the fingerprints and criminal histories of 70 million subjects in the criminal master file, 31 million civil prints and fingerprints from 73,000 known and suspected terrorists processed by the U.S. or by international law enforcement agencies.
The entire data collected by means of Aadhaar card should be stored in a data repository that is accessible to police, investigating, intelligence and other security agencies. This can be used to fight both crime and terror.
For example if there is a crime committed and if the police gets fingerprints from the crime scene, they will have ready access to the repository of data which has data of fingerprints of everyone in the country which can be used to identify the perpetrator of the crime. If DNA samples are also collected during enrollment, it will provide an even more concrete means to identify suspects by matching DNA evidence from crime scene to the data available in the repository.
CCTV is increasingly getting installed across the country both in public and private places whose footage is used to police and other investigating agencies to identify perpetrators of a crime. Use of facial recognition software will help identify criminals matching footage received from CCTV with the photos taken during the Aadhaar enrollment process. Investigating financial and other crimes too can get easier with Aadhaar.
Aadhaar will also be useful to fight terror. The current system of fingerprints and retina scan should be expanded to include voice and DNA samples which stored digitally will provide security agencies ready access to voice samples to match with those from intercepted phone calls.
The process can still be adopted for future enrollment as well as calling back those so have already enrolled to provide voice and DNA samples.
Earlier, the issue illegal immigrants acquiring Aadhaar card was raised. However it can be used to our advantage to weed out illegals and also enable us to tackle extremists, terrorists and anti-national elements within them as also such elements from within our own citizens.
Aadhaar card should be made mandatory for opening bank accounts, starting a business, applying for a credit/debit card, mobile and internet connection and or any other consumer and government services. This will not only help reduce black money in India but also allow security agencies to track money trail if there are wire transfers or cash or any large deposits in the accounts of suspected terrorists, track spending via credit card and track suspects using their phones all of which will be linked to their Aadhaar.
A national database of fingerprints, voice samples, DNA samples and retina scans which is accessible to all law enforcement and security agencies will go a long way in fighting crime and terrorism. Aadhaar will certainly be worth the effort if it helps keep the country safe.