July 10, 2011

Aadhaar card is a good joke

With great fanfare our PM announced the Unique Identification Authority of India programme, that will serve many purposes, and requested Nandan Nilekani to head the project, in February 2009. Papers were full of the great opportunity ahead for him, and everybody had high expectations. Its two and a half years now and there seems no sign of the card being issued! I read about its launch in a remote village in Maharashtra a year ago. Surprisingly, media has not gone hammer and tongs at the UIDAI, yet. They have their hands full with scams and fasts unto death to cover, this past year. And our Chairman Nandan Nilekani still manages to talk of it (planning and promise) without drawing ire from the audience. 

My personal experience appears a big joke, so far. One day in April, my office was abuzz with excitement, that an extension counter is doing the Aadhaar project (well that's the desi name) and will wind up in 3 days! So, as is expected, a mad rush ensued, tokens given and after many futile unsuccessful trips to the bank, I finally managed to get my fingerprints and biometric information taken. I was also promptly given a slip with date and time of my application and was told that the card will be couriered in 2 months! I came away impressed. An application number on the slip was one way to track the status of the card, we were told.

Well, its 3 months and more and there is no sign of the card:(. Not to lose heart, I told myself that its a mammoth project and prone to get a little delayed. My hopes are however dashed, as Wodehouse would have said... according to their website, none of our applications are traceable!! I would still have had hope but for the fact that our Chairman's application alone, the status message reads "under process". So, in India, the fancied Aadhaar card that has been hailed for the masses, is being done for VVIPs:-), as of now.

I am sorely disappointed with Nandan Nilekani, not because of my personal experience, but because he has failed to execute a project as he would have done in Infosys. I have a couple of grouses on the methodology used: why use bank staff premises and allow all and sundry to apply? Ideally they should have done this street wise and get all residents covered in 2 days for each street. Secondly, there is absolutely no information of the Aadhaar cards being issued in the papers. For such a prestigious project, I think its being very sadly executed and this is where we fail, most often. I certainly expected better from Nandan Nilekani but I guess he couldn't break the Babudom stranglehold, and has let us down!

Perhaps, he misses the Infosys culture and feels he would have been better off there:)

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