The Stream

Aadhaar: The world’s largest biometric identification system

Controversy continues in India as government pushes to make ID cards mandatory for services.

1.15 billion. That’s how many people the Indian government says are now enrolled in its biometric identification system, Aadhaar. The programme aims to make the provision of government services more efficient, while providing ID cards for hundreds of millions of Indians who previously had none.

Critics note that while the programme was always supposed to be voluntary, there have been recent moves to make it mandatory for certain services – including receiving pensions, food rations and free school lunches. And for those who already have an Aadhaar number, it is now compulsory to use it while filing taxes.

Concerns have also been raised about the strength of Aadhaar’s digital infrastructure after multiple instances of people’s identities and personal data being leaked. Other errors in the system, such as biometric authentication failures due to weak internet connectivity, often prevent poor families from getting welfare entitlements they need.

So, is  Aadhaar doing more harm than good? And is India’s digital infrastructure equipped to handle the size and scale of the programme?

Joining The Stream:

Devjyot Ghoshal @DevjyotGhoshal
Roving editor, Quartz India

Saket Modi @SaketModi_
Co-Founder & CEO, Lucideus

Usha Ramanathan
Law & policy researcher

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