Friday, September 18, 2009

The Functional Dilution

A well know economist Bibek Debroy has a piece in today’s Indian Express on Unique Identification Authority of India. Its worth to read at least in two ways one he links with what the Present said in her 4 June Speech to Parliament and Secondly, more importantly, he links with one of the Chapters Nandan Nilekani wrote in his book published last November. Apparently that is the only book I read within a month after the release (as of now).

In way if anyone read all the national English newspapers in the last decade or so the book offers them nothing new. You take any issues-economic, political, social, environment, etc.

Important paragraphs from Bibek’s article:

  • “Getting rid of our phantoms: single citizen ID”. This section said, “India’s ministries and departments are also quite isolated, with separate fund flows and intricate, over-hyphenated authority levels. As a result these systems require paperwork-choked processes each time citizens approach the state... Creating a national register of citizens, assigning them a unique ID and linking them across a set of national databases, like the PAN and passport, can have far-reaching effects in delivering public services better and targeting services more accurately. Unique identification for each citizen also ensures a basic right — the right to ‘an acknowledged existence’ in the country, without which much of a nation’s poor can be nameless and ignored, and governments can draw a veil over large-scale poverty and destitution... No one else can then claim a benefit that is rightfully yours, and no one can deny their economic status, whether abjectly poor or extremely wealthy... A key piece of infrastructure that must sit on top of an interconnected grid is the electronic flow of funds... Linking smart cards to such accounts can open up the banking system to hundreds of millions more people.”
  • Paragraph 13 of her June 4 speech to Parliament stated, “The Unique Identity Card scheme for each citizen will be implemented in three years overseen by an Empowered Group. This would serve the purpose of identification for development programmes and security.” Some Cassandras did wonder about paragraph 32 of the same speech, where it said, “Targeted identification cards would subsume and replace omnibus Below Poverty Line (BPL) list. NREGA has a job card and the proposed Food Security Act would also create a new card.”
  • here is a person who not only has impeccable credentials, but also believes passionately in the single ID business. He should be able to bring about the third most important transformation, M.S. Swaminathan and Sam Pitroda being architects of the first two. I wonder why Nandan Nilekani used the expression phantoms in his book.
  • A phantom is an apparition, a spectre. Whenever I hear the word phantom, I think of The Phantom of the Opera and Lee Falk’s The Ghost Who Walks. No one reads the comic strip now. But since Nandan Nilekani and I are roughly of the same age, I am sure he must have devoured Kit Walker’s escapades once upon a time. The point about the ghost who walks is that he never died, his successors carried on the phantom’s role. By that token, we will never get rid of our phantoms and we will never have a single citizen ID. Those ministries and departments will never give up their turfs and their silos. Wasn’t that what the president was hinting at in paragraph 32?
  • Paragraph 64 of Pranab Mukherjee’s budget speech stated, “The setting up of the Unique Identification Authority of India is a major step in improving governance with regard to delivery of public services. This project is very close to my heart... The UIDAI will set up an online data base with identity and biometric details of Indian residents and provide enrolment and verification services across the country. The first set of unique identity numbers will be rolled out in 12 to 18 months. I have proposed a provision of Rs120 crore for this project.”

No comments:

Post a Comment