As Unique As Your Identity

, Tech

Launched in 2009, Aadhaar is your 12-digit passport to multiple benefits extended by the government. We help you decode the number

Gautham Ramachandran was stranded with his family at Chennai’s Koyembedu Bus Stand during recent floods without any money. He lost his ATM card and bank branches were also not operational in the flooded city of Chennai. What came to his rescue was his Aadhaar number. “I never knew Aadhaar was so powerful. I just remembered my 12 digit Aadhaar number, which facilitated me withdraw money from my account, with help of a bank official in one of the mobile ATM. Thank God, I have linked my bank account with Aadhaar number, else it would have not been possible. I saw many cases where bank officials could not extend any help, since bank account of an individual was not linked with the Aadhaar.” said Gautham.

Be it the success of delivering pension benefits to pensioners by issuing Jeevan Pramaan or life certificates based on biometric authentication or the ease of transferring LPG cash subsidies directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries or facilitating doorstep payments of various welfare schemes to people in the hinterland, Aadhaar has proved to be a useful tool in the development of contemporary India – the Digital India; and is indeed one of the major success story of development and financial management that India can tell to the world with pride on a global platform.



Aadhaar is a nationally accepted Unique Identification Number with provisions for easy and secure online verification “anytime, anywhere”. Hence, it helps in identifying the genuine beneficiaries while removing duplicates and fake beneficiaries from the database of various Government welfare schemes. This was not possible with any other existing proxy identities like the Driving License, Voter ID Card, Passport, Ration Card, etc.

Aadhaar cannot be issued to a person more than once, as the uniqueness of this number is achieved through individual’s biometrics. The 12-digit Aadhaar number which is generated with minimal basic demographic data (name, gender, date of birth, father/ mother/husband’s name and address) and biometric data (photograph, fingerprints and iris scans) offers an online, real-time authentication service which empowers residents to prove “who they say, they are” without restricting their identity to any physical document. Hence, Aadhaar is unique, portable, online verifiable and Pan- India proof of identity of an Aadhaar holder.

It is the only identity that remains unchanged for an individual from cradle to grave. Any change in the demographic data of an individual can be updated with UIDAI but the Aadhaar number is lifelong and never changes. AADHAAR ELIGIBILITY Any individual, irrespective of age and gender, who is a resident in India and satisfies the verification process laid down by the UIDAI, can enrol for Aadhaar on a voluntary basis. An individual needs to enrol only once and the enrolment is free of cost. In case, the resident enrols more than once, ONLY ONE AADHAAR shall be generated. Any individual residing in India for more than 182 days is eligible for Aadhaar. Interestingly, even a one day old infant is eligible for enrolment but any of the parents of the newborn should have Aadhaar



UIDAI collects basic information of residents including their name, date of birth, gender, father’s/husband’s/guardian’s name, mother’s/wife’s/guardian’s name, address, a photograph, all ten fingerprints, and both iris scans. Biometric other than the photograph is not collected for the children below the age of 5 years. However, children need to visit their nearest enrolment centre at the age of 5 and 15 years to update their photo and biometric records. It is desirable that every Aadhaar holder/ enroller should register his/her mobile number and email id with Aadhaar database for better communication facility and to receive OTP during authentication. The information/data given to UIDAI during enrolment of Aadhaar is encrypted by the Enrolment Client software then and there, even before saving it to any hard disk. This encryption is of best international standards and thus, not only ensures privacy of an individual but also ascertains security of the data.

Aadhaar system collects no data related to caste, religion, economic status, bank account details, etc. about residents and has no linkage to any other database such as PAN card, passport, driving license, etc. It does not track or collect data about any day-to-day transactions or activities of individuals such as banking, travel, hospital visits, etc.


The entire Aadhaar data is stored and secured within the Central IdentitiesData Repository (CIDR), managed by the UIDAI. The CIDR is located in spatiallydistributed data centres in India that use world class security tools and practices for round-the-clock safe monitoring. Raw biometric data is always stored in encrypted form even within the CIDR to ensure, that at any stage, there is no unauthorized access to data by any means.


Aadhaar system does not store or link the collected data with any other database and is designed specifically to protect the privacy of an individual. There are stringent provisions in the Aadhaar Act 2016 on the security and sharing of data and penal provisions for violations, if any. This not only secures data with best world class technological tools but also protects privacy of every Aadhaar holder. No agency has access to the information in the UID database. UIDAI answers requests to authenticate identity only through a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response. No personal identity information is returned as part of the response, except when e-KYC request is sent by the resident himself/herself.

Moreover, the CIDR has been notified as the “Protected System” under the Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) and UIDAI has been awarded ISO 27001 Certification for Information Security.



One major benefit that Aadhaar facilitates in the life of an individual is his/her financial inclusion. Aadhaar, therefore, can be used as one’s permanent ‘Financial Address’. In order to enable Aadhaar as the financial address, UIDAI in partnership with National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) has developed two products- Aadhaar Payment Bridge System (APBS) and Aadhaar enabled Payments System (AePS) – which benefit both public and private entities in delivering benefits to the end consumer/beneficiary. These products facilitate convenience of peoplecentric hassle-free governance by directly transferring the subsidies/benefits of social welfare schemes to the beneficiaries’ accounts and, also, enable delivery of services to the beneficiary residing in the remotest area of the country. This Aadhaar -enabled scenario has led to:

  • Curbing leakages through targeted delivery, especially in cases where identity needs to be confirmed before services/benefits delivery. For instance, subsidized food and kerosene delivery through PDS, wage payments under MGNERGS, etc.
  • Improving efficacy and efficiency of disbursement system/s with Aadhaar platform by providing greater information visibility up to the last mile and effective utilization of scarce development funds..
  • Performance enhancement of administrative staff with improved monitoring and lesser intermediaries’ deployment for delivery of payments/ services.

Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric based unique identification system that provides online authentication services anywhere, anytime and is so robust and vast that it can handle as much as 100 million authentication requests a day. Even the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) biometric database with just 15 crore biometrics, is way behind Aadhaar. Aadhaar is one of the biggest transformational tool of India socially and economically. Not surprisingly, Aadhaar with its four properties of Uniqueness, Authentication, Financial Address and e-KYC, provides a way for the Government of India to directly reach residents of the country at their doorstep with subsidies/benefits/services. This perhaps has obligated Mr. Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank President (in 2013) to call Aadhaar as “the greatest poverty killer app we’ve ever seen”. However, there have been some concerns expressed by the civil society regarding privacy and security of sensitive personal data. The Government of India has appropriately tried to address these concerns to a large extent with the Aadhaar Act, 2016 passed in the Parliament in March, 2016. In fact, Aadhaar with its online anytime-anywhere authentication service is your passport to a Digital India. It’s up to the people of India to make it work towards improved financial inclusion and empowerment of all.

Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Director General & Mission Director, UIDAI, educates us about Aadhaar and how it proves to be an efficient tool for good governance

Aadhaar has emerged as the largest biometric identification programme in the world. How do you view this as success for India globally?

Indeed, this is an important milestone for India. Today we have more than 99.7 crore people with Aadhaar in India. The uniqueness of this success lies in the fact that it is the largest public owned identity platform on the planet, created for the benefit of people. No other country has an online identity platforms of this scale. In fact many identity platform such as Gmail IDs, Facebook IDs and Skype Ids, with the scale of demographic data equal to that in Aadhaar, are owned privately. At UIDAI, we have safeguarded the privacy of an individual and secured the data with one of the most advanced protection systems backed by law existing in any country today. Demographic and biometric data given by resident during enrolment become immediately inaccessible as they get encrypted at the point of capture, and the system just authenticates the data requested for with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. Interestingly, no such protection is available in many existing identity systems. In short, with Aadhaar, we have laid the foundation for a developed India. It will boost the growth of India, because now only genuine beneficiaries who are entitled for benefits and subsidies will get the same, and there will be no siphoning of the benefits by ghost and duplicates in the system.

There have been concerns expressed by civil society and in various PILs in the Supreme Court regarding the privacy and security of data. How does the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act 2016 address these concerns?

First, we need to understand the importance of the Act. The government has limited funds, which need to be used judiciously. Since it is practically impossible to reach directly to every individual, most services and benefits are delivered through layers of intermediaries. This adds to the cost and also causes leakage. With the Aadhaar Act coming into force, governments will be able to transfer the benefits directly to individuals. This will reduce leakages and expenses that existed in earlier systems of payouts, thereby increasing efficiency. Regarding security and privacy concerns, the UIDAI system is one of strongest in its class, as mentioned earlier. UIDAI does not share any data, but just authenticates the data requested for and that too is done only with the consent of the respective individual. And, this consent is taken every time before authentication. In case of violations, the Act has strong provision to punish the lawbreakers.

Why is Aadhaar called the “Financial Address” of an individual? And how is it beneficial to an individual?

Currently, one needs to share his/her name, bank account number and bank’s IFSC code to get benefits and subsidies transferred to his account. If an individual had to change his bank account, he needs to share a whole lot of information with all the concerned departments from where he was getting benefits. We call Aadhaar the financial address of an individual because he may just share his Aadhaar number with the respective agencies, and get the benefits delivered directly into his bank account linked to Aadhaar. The transfer is done through the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) mapper. Any change in bank account details in future need not be reported to the departments but just needs to be intimated to NPCI, and they will transfer the funds into your new bank account.

What role does Aadhaar play in realising the dream of Digital India?

Aadhaar is an important pillar of Digital India. The aim of Digital India is to empower the citizens of India. Digital India is not limited to urban areas, and it specifically targets those who are residing in remote areas. Also, it is important to note that no other ID system in the nation has instant real-time authentication available at any time of the day. It will allow individuals in remote areas to do away with middlemen, and directly avail the services and benefits. MNERGA payments via micro ATMs are an exemplary example, where payments are made by bank correspondents based on Aadhaar authentication via biometrics at the homes of the individuals.

Can we see Aadhaar being used as an important tool in Indian railways?

I see some important utilities, which can be incorporated by the railways in the future. First is as an authentication tool that can be used for certain class of passengers, like senior citizens, employee of railways or service providers. Presently, they need to carry ID proofs. Also, railways may at some later date collaborate with the UIDAI for real-time authentication on machines, similar to micro ATMs that have the facility of biometric authentication. The second is to check touts and agents involved in booking rail tickets. The Ministry of Railways limits the number of tickets being booked online per ID, but these agents operate multiple IDs with different email IDs. If the Railways links these IDs with Aadhaar, they can keep a check on duplicate IDs.

Can Aadhaar be a tool of good governance?

Aadhaar can be the backbone of good governance. It ensures government resources are judiciously spent on the targeted citizens, and there is no wastage due to fake or duplicate entries. Secondly, it is an identity valid pan-India which empower individuals to authenticate themselves anytime & anywhere in the country. Many identity proofs are local in nature and cannot be authenticated easily in other parts of the country and thereby fakes and ghosts enter into the system. People also have difficulty in identifying themselves with their local IDs when they migrate to other places for their livelihood and often lose the benefits they were availing in their native places. Through Aadhaar, a beneficiary can be authenticated anywhere in the country and receive benefits and services.

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