Home ministry seeks Rs 2 billion for NPR awareness campaign

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The home ministry is seeking an additional grant of Rs 2 billion to dispel confusion among people over the collection of biometric data by government agencies and educate people about the benefits of such data collection, says a Livemint report.

The money will fund a nationwide advertisement campaign for nearly one and a half year. The money is in addition to the Rs. 125 crore that has been sanctioned to it to publicize the benefits of enrolling with the National Population Register (NPR), which has been tasked with collecting biometric data in all states and union territories.

“There has been a lot of confusion among people over the collection of biometrics by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the NPR. This is resulting in duplication of work at many places across the country. So through the advertisements in print, television and radio, we will try to educate people about role of the NPR and its benefits,” said a high ranking official, who wished not to be identified.

“We will explain the process of enrolment, legal sanctity of data, mandatory registration under the NPR, generation of Aadhaar number and benefits of the Resident Identity Card. These advertisements will also be issued in regional languages,” the official said.

The 12 digit Aadhaar number was conceived as a unique identity that would be accepted nationally by banks, telecom providers, oil companies, and other government agencies to serve as a tool to better target social spending by making sure that benefits such as subsidies reach the poor for whom they are meant. NPR’s prime mandate, on the other hand, is to satisfy security concerns.

That some duplication, with biometric data (a photograph of the face, iris scan and fingerprints) captured twice, would be unavoidable was known when the compromise was reached. Home minister P Chidambaram had said that the chances of duplication were just 5 per cent, implying a cost of Rs 2.5 billion.

Under the compromise, UIDAI was given the mandate to collect biometrics for 400 million residents in addition to the 200 million it had already covered. NPR agreed to accept biometric data collected by Aadhaar with the caveat that where there was an overlap or a conflict over the data, NPR-compiled metrics would prevail.

Aadhaar was given the mandate to enrol people in 16 states and union territories and the NPR in the rest of the country. The two projects had been at loggerheads over who will collect biometrics for the entire population of the country. The home ministry had stated that UIDAI data can’t be trusted for “security” purposes and it wanted to collect its own biometrics. The government would have spent an additional Rs. 6,000 crore if NPR and UIDAI collected their own biometrics separately.

Another senior official, who too spoke on condition of anonymity, said the money is being sought along with the approval for the Resident Identity Card from expenditure finance committee. The committee, headed by expenditure secretary Sumit Bose, failed to clear the Resident Identity Card project following objections from the UIDAI and department of information technology. The panel is likely to take up the matter again this month.

The officials said the additional fund requirement is required to sustain an advertisement campaign across the county. “If we calculate the advertisement cost on a per person basis, it is nothing. During census we had spent a minimum of Rs 500 million for educating people through various campaigns.”

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