Interview with Arvind Prasad: Additional Director-General for Jharkhand, UIDAI
Duration: 00:20:30; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 251.615; Saturation: 0.010; Lightness: 0.514; Volume: 0.119; Cuts per Minute: 0.731; Words per Minute: 108.417
The Identity project emerged as a result of our dissatisfaction at the nature of the debate that was emerging on the area of digital governance in India.
Over the past three years we have conducted numerous field visits in seven Indian states.These visits include numerous video-conversations, some short and others very long, with a diverse number of those who were involved with this entire process of participating in the emergence of a digital ecosystem of governance. These are interviews with people being enrolled into the Aadhaar programme, with district-level Panchayat and other officials, with numerous State government bureaucrats, with private enrollment representatives, representatives of various governmental services, with operators and other members of this digital workforce. Conversations are often long, spontaneous and deliberately unstructured: and the focus is mainly on a vérité style using amateur video.
Some key issues that we shortlisted for detailed inquiry were issues of migrants, both domestic and across international borders, homelessness in cities, and the financially excluded. Each of these areas was discussed in considerable detail at major public consultations held in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore, in partnership with the CSDS, the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, and the Urban Research and Policy Programme Initiative of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. All videos of all presentations made at these events are also available here.
CSCS also has an extensive text archives of material on the field as a whole, available on http://eprints.cscsarchives.org
This Interview with Arvind Prasad, Additional Director General UIDAI, Jharkhand as part of the Identity Project’s field work in the state in March 2011 touches upon several fundamental elements of the eco-system (structural and financial) that the UIDAI, state and private agencies had constituted to carry out Aadhaar enrolments. Here Arvind Prasad speaks about the Memorandum of Understanding the UIDAI signed with the state government, identification of two registrars in the state, the empanelment of enrolment agencies through a RFP, enrolment and Aadhaar number issuance status as of March 2011. He also speaks about the authentication pilots being undertaken and Aadhaar’s potential in financial inclusion particularly with the introduction of Business Correspondents at Common Service Centres (CSC’s) in some blocks. Importantly. Arvind Prasad speaks of several potential uses of Aadhaar authentication, citing examples such as authentication in mid-day meals schemes, which will provide supervisory officers a centralized data set for monitoring such schemes.
The date has been counted from the month our honorable chairman has joined the authority. He has joined in the month of July 2009. UIDAI has successfully delivered the first set UID in the month of September and that has been inaugurated by our honorable PM and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. And the first set of UID numbers were given in the Maharashtra state in Nandurbar district.
In Jharkhand for carrying out the project we have signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government. That clearly specifies the intention of the UIDAI and the state to carry the UID project further. In the MOU that we signed in July it clearly specifies the works to be undertaken by the UID and what are the works to be undertaken by the government.
Broadly the state government and UID has tried to leverage the infrastructure of the state for carrying forward the project.That's why they have entered into an agreement into the state and they are working as registrars of the UIDAI for delivering the UID numbers to the residents. After that, the UIDAI has empanelled a set of agencies depending on the financial and technical capability of the agencies. They have opened a tender for empanelled agencies and in turn they have empanelled around 220 set of agencies for different states.
For Jharkhand there were 51 agencies who can work as enrollment agencies of the state. There were two options given to the state. One can take financial quote from this set of agencie,s or they can have their own RFP process for deciding the agencies. But Jharkhand government decided to go through the set of empanelled agencies by the UIDAI. They had taken the cabinet decision to float financial quote among the empanelled agencies of the UIDAI.
There were two set of registrars declared by the state. One set is Rural Development Department who is working for the rural population of the state and the other is Urban Development Department for the urban population of the state. In the first phase the UIDAI targeted the enrollment of poor people first.
In the first phase the state government has started has started operation in 5 districts of the state in 1st November. We had selected 5 different agencies for 5 different districts. At a later date as per the direction of our honorable CM, the state government took financial quote for the remaining 19 districts.
For the secong phase,out of the 19 districts, tenders for 16 districts were finalized. As of date, tenders for 21 districts are in place and enrollment work is going on in 16 districts. Whereas in urban areas, there was a delay in floating the tender and the process of finalization of agency. For the urban department 7 schedules were made. That was not done on the basis of the district but they clubbed together different municipalities, different nagar panchayatas and different nagar parishaths into common areas and they decided to have a quote for seven schedules.
Out of the seven schedules, as the principal secretary mentioned today in the workshop, it is evident that one agency will be finalized in every schedule for the state. I think they have also declared during this workshop that they should start the work from 1st April. That means that coming for the next financial year we will have agencies in place for the urban as well as rural areas of the state.
As of now, in the rural areas around 4 lakh enrollments have already been done. And out of those 4 lakh enrollments around 1.9 lakh Aadhaar have been issued. The state government is very keen to complete this process as far as possible in the next one to two years depending on the schedules that they have targeted to cover the whole population.
Another important factor is that power of the Aadhaar for financial inclusion will be a milestone. We are also in the process of POC only, for this five parts. In Karnataka in Tumkur or Mysore district this POC going on, the authentication of POC. You might have heard that UID is also going to give authentication service. That means that one can claim one's identity with the help of fingerprints online anytime and anywhere in the country.
This power of authentication will be very vital in the disbursement of wages to the targeted beneficiary in different service delivery programmes of the state. Like NREGA, there are cases you might have read in the newspapers where they have been delays in the payment of wages to the workers, to those who have accounts in post offices.
During the enrollment process we are targeting to take the information of the enrollee regarding their available bank account on which they want to have transactions in the future. If somebody does not have an account, they can give consent to open their account on the basis of demographic information which they give at the time of enrollment.
Both ways we are trying to include all the people with the help of bank accounts. Our honorable chief minister and chief secretary of Jharkhand are very keen to have 100% financial inclusion. During the UID enrollment they have allocated one block to different banks for the opening of bank accounts at the time of enrollment itself.
They are also targeting some of the blocks to do financial inclusion on priority. You can talk to the government later about financial inclusion. UIDAI with the help of business correspondents model are targeting to open Pragya Kendras or Common Service Centers. With the help of this payment to the targeted beneficiary can be made after only authentication from the UID server.
Once the authentication done they can have their balance checked. They can take some money and they can also transfer money from their account to someone else’s account. Mobility is one of the advantages. Due to inter-banking that is part of the UID enabled bank account, they will have the liberty to draw from their accounts with all BC's depending on the services being offered.
INTERVIEWER: Is the authentication process still at the concept stage?
Speaker: Authentication is also at the proof-of-concept stage, you are correct. And we are doing that and trying to streamline our process.
INTERVIEWER: Who is involved in the proof-of-concept process?
Speaker: Our FI team is the head quarters. They are directly monitoring our POC process. Some banks are also involved who have opened accounts and trying to check the authentication for the people who have the UID.
That means in the backend, there is a table consisting of the account number and the UID number. And transaction is done on the basis of the UID number, and not on the basis on the account number. They will put to transport the amount from one UID to the other. There will be a linked backend. The UID number will point to a particular account number which will be of the beneficiaries itself.
The same authentication service can be highly utilized in midday meals. There are complaints of less attendance: that can be plugged with the help of authentication of the children when they come to the school. Monitoring mechanisms will also help the DSC who is sitting in the district headquarters to check how many authentications took place under a particular day and what was the amount of food that was prepared on that particular day.
That can plug the leakages of the material.
INTERVIEWER: What is the authentication process in the midday meal scheme? How is it working?
Speaker: There will be a small set of devices like the mobile where children have to put their UID number, their name and fingerprints. After putting the fingerprint and UID number, authentication will be done from our server and immediately with some transaction ID this authentication will be answered 'yes' or 'no'. If the UID number does not match the fingerprint the automatic reply will say 'no'. It matches then it says 'yes'.
INTERVIEWER: Is this also in the proof of concept stage?
Speaker: Once our authentication POC is over and we are confident of having all our processes in place, we are trying to tell all state governments that these are the benefits of UID, and it can be leveraged in the service delivery schemes of different departments.
Nowadays we are already in the POC stage. Once our process is defined and stabilized, the state government may use these process for rendering services to different departments.
INTERVIEWER: What is the nature of the private service delivery agencies who have expressed an interest in the UID? We read in the newspapers that DishTV was interested in the UID?
Speaker: I cannot reply to that part. Our team in the headquarters who is looking after this scheme can reply to what are the policy issues of using our authentication by private people. I am not the correct person to reply to this question.
INTERVIEWER: What is the nature of the Aadhaar? Is Aadhaar being issued via the smart card?
Speaker: We are replying though a simple letter. That letter will just have the number. Those numbers will be very random in nature. There is no intelligence in that number. Intelligence in the sense, it does not have a state code or district code or no block code of tehsil code. By seeing the number you cannot identify as to which state this number belongs to.
There is a tearaway portion of the letter which can be kept in your pocket or wallet. The main paper can be kept at home. We are not giving cards. We are issuing letters to residents. We have an MOU signed with the Department of Posts who are delivering the letters on our behalf.
INTERVIEWER: I am playing the devil's advocate here. Some of the groups have been working on PDS and NREGA. One of the critiques they point out to especially with relation to the UID in the PDS. Unless you correct the loopholes in the PDS system. The services that people might think come from the UID are not going to happen. Because even if you have the UID number, unless you correct the loopholes that are there in NREGA or PDA... How would you respond to that?
Speaker: I think the person who has to reply should be the State Government. We are trying to tell you the different aspects of UIDAI which can be utilized in delivery of services. It is up to the state government to modify their application which can be UID ready for the delivery of services.
One thing I wasn’t to tell you is that UIDAI is giving assistance to the states to make their programmes UID ready.
INTERVIEWER: What is the nature of this assistance?
Speaker: We get sufficient funds from the headquarters. We have to give a proposal asking their willingness to modify their programmes with the UIADI. And after examining those proposals UIDAI is giving assistance to the states like ICT assistance to make their programmes Aadhaar ready. We our giving other kind of assistance is that we are giving Rs.50 per Aadhaar issued to the state and not to the agency.
Because there is a relationship between the EA and registrar. Because enrollment agencies are appointed by the state. We give Rs.50 to the state and the state in turn depending on the price discovery done in different schedules and different districts. But cost paid to the enrollment agencies in Jharkhand is less than what we are giving the state. There is no financial burden on the states for doing the UID project.
INTERVIEWER: Is there any charge for the residents for issuing the UID?
Speaker: We are giving it free of cost.
INTERVIEWER: How does the UIDAI recover the money that is being given to the state?
Speaker: We are not recovering. We give the money to the state and the state in turn pays the enrollment agency. The difference can be utilized for IC and HR requirements for monitoring the UID project. There are different contingency expenditures. They have to go to different t enrollment stations to audit what the agencies are doing. The expenditure for that audit can be paid by the balance amount with the state.
INTERVIEWER: Which welfare schemes has the Jharkhand state asked to be UID to pay for?
Speaker: NREGA has asked for the money and part of the money we have already given the state. We have released 10% for the ICT support. They are in the process of appointing consultants and application developer for doing this work.
INTERVIEWER: Is there any other welfare scheme that is also under consideration.
Speaker: No we received requests only from the NREGA as of now.
INTERVIEWER: Anything that you would like to add?
Speaker: The power of the Aadhaar should be known to the residents and they should come to our enrollments stations in bulk to have their enrollment done and have their Adhaar issued. This will be a single source of identification all across the country. As of now I have many cards. All the existing cards can be duplicated. One can have two photo identity cards. Once can have two PAN cards. Possibility of having two UID numbers will be very remote.
INTERVIEWER: Is there any talk of integrating the UID with the election commission voter ID card?
Speaker: I am not aware of anything. I have recently read in the newspapers that the CEC has pointed to the power of the Aadhhar. I am not aware of the plans for the convergence of these two projects.