UID kicks off

Ranjana Sonawane, a 30-year old housewife from Tembhli,a nondescript village in Nandurbar district, entered history on Wednesday. But more as a number—782474317884—than a name. Sonawane became the first Indian to get a Unique Identification Number, Nandan Nilekani’s ambitious project that promises to be the passport to better access to government schemes for the poor and facilities like banking and insurance. One of modern India’s biggest schemes—the UID or Aadhaar—was launched by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Once a person has a UID number, his or her basic identity linked to their biometrics is established and can be used to uniquely identify the individual,’’ Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nilekani said.
Sonawane wasn’t too sure how her life would change but she imagined it would help her. “We find it very difficult to maintain all our government records considering out house is very small. This will help us get access to government schemes,’’ she said after the first 10 people got their UID numbers. The UID is widely expected to improve delivery of services to the poor and prevent corruption on the last mile of otherwise ambitious poverty alleviation programmes.
Both Gandhi and Singh hoped that the project would help plug the pilferage that
plagues the public distribution system and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), one of UPA government’s showpiece schemes. “The aim of the UID scheme is to bring transparency in the system,’’ Gandhi said, adding that Indians with this Unique Identity Number could reap the benefits of such schemes anywhere in India. “Even if an individual migrates or shifts temporarily to some other place, he will be entitled to the benefits of all government schemes. I hope this will change the lives of every individual,’’ Gandhi said, getting a huge response from the largely tribal audience.
The PM echoed Sonia Gandhi in Nandurbar on Wednesday. “The poor do not have any identity proof and often face problems opening bank accounts or even getting basic government documents like the ration card. Taking advantage of the system, government help meant for the poor and the needy is often pocketed by others,’’ he said, appealing to all Indians to come forward and enrol for the project as the whole idea of the UID scheme was to benefit the “aam admi’’. The aim was to give a dignified life to the poor and the backward, he added.
Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, state governor K Shankaranarayanan, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia were present on the occasion. Chavan thanked Gandhi and Singh for selecting a remote tribal-dominated district like Nandurbar in Maharashtra for launching the nationwide project. The Unique Identification Authority of India started working in August 2009 and the government committed itself to issuing the first set of Unique ID numbers in 12 to 18 months.

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