Aadhaar – Number or Card or both.


The initial mandate of UIDAI was to issue ‘Aadhaar numbers’, to the enrolled population after collecting their Biometric details. Hence, the initial ‘Aadhaar number’, were issued on simple inland letters.

As time went by, the ‘Aadhaar numbers’, were issued on laminated cards. This was because, slowly ‘Aadhaar number’, document morphed into an identity document. Directly or indirectly, with major Government departments relying upon ‘Aadhaar number’, to identify a person, a more durable document was required than a piece of paper was required to display the ‘Aadhaar number’.  This led to the latest avatar of the ‘Aadhaar document’, a laminated card.

Ideally, based on the ‘Aadhaar number’, other government departments were to incorporate the same in the documents issued by them ex PAN Card, Passport, Ration Card, etc. Based on the ‘Aadhaar number’, the biometric details were to be matched and then the ‘Aadhaar number’, be incorporated on the base document.

However, biometric authentication is not yet taken off, hence departments started to rely on the ‘Aadhaar number’, document   to identify the person.

The recent confusion arose as the National Population Register has the mandate to issue ‘Resident Identity Cards’.

The ‘Resident Identity Cards’, will contain the ‘Aadhaar numbers’. Residents, who have enrolled under UIDAI-Aadhaar scheme, have to re-enroll for inclusion in NPR. However, residents who have enrolled under NPR need not re-enroll for UIDAI-Aadhaar scheme, as the Aadhaar number will be issued based on NPR enrolments.

Ah, the future of collection of biometric details of Indian residents is bound to be interesting. In this whole exercise, as massive IT efforts will be required, new technologies being developed for the collection/storage of biometric details should have a spillover effect over other related fields.

At present, the ‘Resident Identity Cards’, are being issued to residents of coastal villages under In future, the  scheme to issue Resident Identity Cards to all usual residents in the country who are of 18 years of age and more on the same pattern is under consideration of the Government.

Confusion over whether the unique identity number is a number, a card or both, and concerns over UID and the National Population Register duplicating functions prompted the Cabinet to refer UPA-2’s ambitious project to a group of ministers.

The Cabinet discussion on Thursday revealed that the ministerial panel was not immune from contradictory and blurred perceptions about Aadhaar, as UID is known, with some ministers saying they had received a card along with a number.

Seeking to set at rest controversy over Aadhaar, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on 1st February 2013,  said UID is a number and not an identity card.

“The Aadhaar is actually a number, linked to that number is a biometric record which is centrally stored. The (Aadhaar) number comes in a form of card. But that card is not an identity card,” Ahluwalia told PTI when asked about the raging controversy over the issue.

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