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The Citizen ID, 2011

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DQW Bureau
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P Chidambaram promises these smart cards in the hands of every Indian by

2011. I did not believe him, but now they've appointed Nandan Nilekani as head

of the project. He's just resigned from the Infosys board to take this up full

time-with a cabinet rank and a whopping budget. If anyone can do it, he can.

So sometime in the next two years, my wallet will hold a smart card, my

identity for voting, taxes, everything. And this would give our megalith

government “one view” of me.

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Why's this such a big deal?



Just look at the mega-databases being built with crores of taxpayer money.

None “talks to” any other database.

The election ID card covers 700 million voters-but neither younger ones, nor

foreign residents, so this isn't a common ID. The PAN card spans 300 million IT

(tax) assessees-anyone who files a return: foreigners, and companies, too. (And

with so much isolated data, the ITO can't easily scan transactions to verify

income. With all its computers, it's running two years late in scanning tax

returns.) The Census board could've been the master database of all in India,

but it's more demographics than personal detail. The ration card, which supports

the public distribution system...this data is accessible on the web, but it's

just 4 million people.

So, each is a silo that doesn't talk to any other.

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A master database would give you a single-ID smart card, and give the

government a common view of you. It would help identify immigrants, and give a

fillip to national security and tax collection.

Take the US social security number (SSN) issued to US citizens and residents

(even temporary ones) since 1936. It goes out with birth certificates, and is a

key tool for Homeland Security. Taxation is also easier, as the USA's IRS can

correlate transactions such as investments, property and vehicle purchase on the

fly-just as India would like to do, but can't.

If these cards reach half of India's citizens by 2011, my hat's off to Nandan

Nilekani. And this could become the UPA's top achievement in tech and homeland

security.

Prasanto Kumar roy


pkr@cybermedia.co.in

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