• Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Mar 19, 2015 08:06 IST

Woman applying for aadhaar card

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The number of people who have registered for an Aadhaar identification number in the Capital outstrips its population by over 27%, raising questions about the efficacy of the controversial biometric registration process.

About 20 million people have enrolled in Delhi for the unique 16-digit number, 27.6% more than the city’s population of 16.8 million, according to the 2011 census.

Officials associated with the enrollment process, however, said it was robust — based on documents provided by government agencies like transport department, post offices and civil supplies department — and added they couldn’t vouch for census data.

“It is not abnormal. It is possible people who have enrolled in Delhi left the city but didn’t get their residence address changed,” said Vijay Maidan, director general of the Unique Identification Authority of India.

“Moreover, Delhi’s population has also increased since 2011,” Maidan added. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is the nodal body for rolling out Aadhaar in the country.

Of the 20 million enrolled, the UIDAI has generated about 17.7 million unique numbers in Delhi till Thursday, about a million more than the city population.

Around 793 million Aadhaar numbers have been generated so far across the country with the UIDAI mandated to cover the entire population by June.

A Census official, however, countered the argument made by Aadhaar authorities and said census figures couldn’t be compared with UIDAI numbers because it adopted a different enrollment process.

“For example, someone living in Gurgaon can enroll in Delhi with a local address in the absence of a verification process by UIDAI. In contrast, the census exercise only counts people who are ordinarily living in a particular area,” the official said. He added any question on the quality of the census or Aadhaar figures could only be raised after the entire population was covered.

But the controversy doesn’t end there. When Aadhaar numbers generated for people above 18 years of age – who are also eligible to vote – were compared with the election commission’s database as of January 1 2015, HT found 800,000 more people with the unique identification code than the city’s voter base. Maidan, however, said it could be because people who migrated out of Delhi didn’t get their addresses changed on the UIDAI database.

The identification project, one of the previous UPA government’s flagship programmes, has been riddled with controversies with the Supreme Court repeatedly asking the Centre to not make Aadhaar mandatory and a bunch of petitions against the disputed biometric data collection process.

Security agencies in the past have also raised doubts over the UIDAI’s enrollment process, saying people were getting Aadhaar numbers — required for opening bank accounts and getting government entitlements such as cooking gas subsidy — without any verification. One can register for an Aadhaar number by submitting a driving licence, voter identity card, any card issued by the department of posts or a photo ration card, which is proof of both residence and identity. The authenticity of the documents submitted isn’t validated by the UIDAI.