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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s a returning Indian, after spending close to 2 decades in the US and Europe, I always wondered why the Indian governments since Independence never thought of implementing a citizen identification and administration system. During every visit to India in the 1990s and 2000s, I would keep reading and hearing about PAN, TAN and what have you, man!

The goal of all these programmes was primarily to collect and account for taxes. It sounded very odd to me that for a country which has a very low ratio of taxpayers-to-population, all these efforts would be too narrow and tactical. Nobody thought of a citizens administration system at a meta level, which is one of the most important reasons for the existence of any government.

Another parallel thought used to bother me each time I thought of a citizen identification system — misuse of this information. Misuse, not by the government but by unscrupulous elements who could ‘buy’ their way into the system. With the advances in technology and India being one of the world’s foremost players in the field of technology, it often occurred to me as to why the government shouldn’t put this skill to use in the design, development and administration of a much-needed common and singular citizen identification and administration system that covered 15% of the world. And then Aadhaar happened.

One must give a lot of credit to the 2004-2014 UPA government as well as accuse it for both conceptualization of such a system while appointing Nandan Nilekani to lead that effort, and for not being able to demonstrate the use of Aadhaar in providing citizen services.

I am a strong believer in government and its minimal role in anyone’s life. Therefore, I have tremendous trust in the institution of government; I may not trust certain individuals in the government — both elected and appointed, but then there is the nation’s law that provides safeguards against such individuals. And there have been many instances of those safeguards having protected citizens against untrustworthy individuals.

The Aadhaar system design and the rules of access, the aspects of data authorization, security as well as its accuracy and currency are very well taken care of based on my understanding of the system. Coming to the point, I was delighted with my experience with Aadhaar and its use today. I was speaking to my chartered accountant this afternoon about wanting to change the registered address of a private limited company and an LLP jointly owned by my wife and me. He asked me to prepare and be ready with a set of documents and our digital signatures for this purpose. To which, I quipped “Oh no! our digital signatures expired recently.”

The CA presented 2 options to me for getting valid digital signatures — one with the socialistic legacy of having to fill up a form and attach a set of documents and attest and… the other option that he suggested was a quicker and easier one: E-KYC.

A camp organised for Aadhaar card applicants

“What’s that?” I asked him and he explained the process to me in 3 sentences. It sounded fascinating and I thought of putting my ageing but tinkering and adventurous mind to testing this new process. So, I informed him instantly over the phone of my choice. At 2:30 PM, this young person armed with a laptop, a high-speed internet dongle and a biometric reader knocks on my door. I let him in and he settles in on the office table with all gadgets connected. He asks for my wife’s and my original Aadhaar card and PAN card.

He enters this information into the software application connected over this dongle to the Internet-based Aadhaar Authentication System. He then asks me to stick my right thumb onto the biometric reader upon the appearance of the 2 tiny red lights. My right thumb is scanned and, Hurray, my entire personal information and photograph appear on his screen in a jiffy, pulled straight out of the Aadhaar authentication system!

The visitor progresses Prasad V Duvvuri <_________> to go ahead and request for my digital signature with the agency called e-Mudhra, which is the certifying authority under the Information Technology Act of India for issuance digital signature certificates in India. While he was still completing the formalities, I received both an SMS as well as an Email from UIDAI informing me of both access to Aadhaar System by someone to verify my identity as well as the fact that the authentication was successful. Your Aadhaar number

While he was still completing the formalities, I received both an SMS and an email from the UIDAI informing me of both access to Aadhaar System by someone to verify my identity and the fact that the authentication was successful. “Your Aadhaar number XXXX XXXX XXXX was used successfully to carry out e-KYC authentication using ‘fingerprint’ on 02/04/2016 at 14:55:05 h at a device deployed by ‘eMudhra Consumer Services Limited’. Response code: ________________________________

This gave me immense happiness possibly for the first time that our government had done a great job of informing its citizen that his data that was under government custody was used for a purpose requested by him. The switch of government accountability to its citizens turned on inside my head. No sooner had I just begun to psychologically jump in joy in celebration of this fundamental right having been implemented so well that I get another email with an announcement that my digital signature has been created with a detailed set of instructions on how to download that token and use it. The entire process was successfully completed in less than 30 minutes.

This individual repeated the same process for my wife. I asked her for an opinion and she replied back “Well, isn’t it supposed to be this way?” I could tell in comparing my reaction with that of my wife’s — I am happy to see how well this works; she expects it to works this way! In summary, the NDA government that was elected in 2014 is definitely doing its job in improving the ease of doing business but, more importantly, this government knows how to implement and put to use processes and systems that are practical, easy, safe, secure and affordable.

I agree that Aadhaar was conceptualized and created by the UPA government, but it never understood how to put this system to use and make it easy to use. This NDA government understands what the average citizen wants and expects from the government.

The original draft of this article had the email and response code of the writer; they have been suppressed to safeguard his privacy and save his email inbox from spam.

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