UIDAI's Aadhaar Project: Challenges Ahead

UIDAI's Aadhaar Project: Challenges Ahead
Case Code: PROM013
Case Length: 15 pages
Period: 2009-2012
Pub Date: 2012
Teaching Note: Not Available
Price: Rs.400
Organization: Unique Identification Authority of India
Industry: -
Countries: India
Themes: Project Management
UIDAI's Aadhaar Project: Challenges Ahead
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


The case focuses on the Aadhaar project that was initiated by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a coalition of central-political left parties heading the Government of India (GoI), under the guidance of Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh (Singh), to provide identity to the 1.2 billion citizens of India. The project aimed to plug loopholes in welfare programs where checking leakages and identifying beneficiaries was a major challenge. With an Aadhaar, there was an absolute guarantee that no two people would have the same Aadhaar, and it could not be duplicated either.

Aadhaar previously called as the Unique identification (UID) project was the 12 digit identification number provided by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on behalf of the GoI. The number served as proof of address and identity for citizens anywhere in India. In June 2009, Nandan Nilekani (Nilekani), former CEO of Infosys Technologies Limited was invited by Singh to head the Aadhaar project and was roped in with the rank of a union cabinet minister as the Chairperson of the UIDAI. In September 2010, the Aadhaar project was launched by Singh and UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi (Gandhi) in Tembhali village in Maharashtra. The launch signified UIDAI's core initiative of giving the poor and marginalized in India an easily verifiable and mobile identity. Having invited Nilekani, Singh had given him full autonomy during the implementation of the Aadhaar project. Nilekani was also given a free hand by Singh to recruit good talent and form his core team. Nilekani initiated the Aadhaar project by launching a pilot project in Karnataka, in October 2010. The success of the pilot project prompted the UIDAI to roll out the Aadhaar project in other states of India.

Since the initiation of the Aadhaar, Nilekani received opposition from several quarters - mainly from cabinet colleagues, bureaucrats, policy experts, activists, and a few state governments. The Finance Ministry of India opposed that the Aadhaar would result in duplication of expenditure since the National Population Register (NPR) led by the Home Ministry was also responsible for making a comprehensive identity database. The Home Ministry questioned the security of biometrics and expressed concerns over how the confidential data would be protected. The Planning Commission said that the UIDAI structure was against government procedures. On the positive side, some policy makers felt that Singh's decision to recruit Nilekani proved to be appropriate since Nilekani had retained immense goodwill amongst the stakeholders involved. Moreover, the autonomy given to Nilekani by Singh led him to prove the viability of the project.

The divided views over the Aadhaar project raised doubts whether the project would be trashed and Nilekani would step down from the post of the Chairman of the UIDAI. The debate over duplication of data and security concerns raised by the Home Ministry came to an end after Singh intervened. In January 2012, Singh in a meeting with Planning Commission Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Ahluwalia), Home Minister, P Chidambaram, and Nilekani concluded that the Aadhaar would be given an extended mandate of collecting biometric data of another 400 million residents in India. While the UIDAI was instructed to enroll 600 million residents across 16 states and Union Territories, the remaining 600 million residents would be recorded by the Registrar General as part of the NPR. The NPR and the UIDAI would then share the biometric data and de-duplicate the data to form a comprehensive biometric database. Nilekani's performance in successfully steering this challenging project was being keenly watched as it was one of the rare instances where the Government had entrusted a project of this magnitude to a corporate leader. Having achieved the initial breakthrough and scored early successes it was to be seen how he would overcome the new challenges and scale up the project.


  • Analyze the efforts by UPA and Singh in launching the Aadhaar project
  • Understand the initiatives undertaken by Nilekani in launching the Aadhaar project and making it a success
  • Understand the issues and challenges faced by Nilekani during the implementation of the Aadhaar project
  • Understand the dilemma faced by the GoI in taking the Aadhaar project forward



Aadhaar, Unique Identification, Unique Identification Authority of India, Government of India, Welfare Programs, Subsidies, Pilot Project, Below Poverty Line, Financial Autonomy, Biometrics , Planning Commission, Finance Ministry, Home Ministry, National Population Register, Manmohan Singh, Nandan Nilekani, Infosys, 2G scam

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