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“Aadhaar” is a unique identification number issued to a resident individual in India under section 3 of The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. This number serves as a proof of identity anywhere in India. This is similar to the social security number issued to a resident /Citizen of United States of America.

Aadhaar is defined under Section 2(a) of The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, which was notified on 26 March 2016[1], though Aadhaar numbers were being issued from 2010 onwards.

Every resident in India (those who have stayed for more than 182 days in the year prior to submitting Aadhaar application) is entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number by submitting his demographic information (includes information relating to the name, date of birth, address and other relevant information of an individual, but excludes race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, records of entitlement, income or medical History)  and biometric information (means photograph, finger print, Iris scan, or such other biological attributes of an individual). Further, the Central Government may, from time to time, notify such other category of individuals who may be entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number.

An Aadhaar number, issued to an individual is unique, remaining valid for life and is not re-assigned to any other individual. It is a random number and bears no relation to the attributes or identity of the Aadhaar number holder. An Aadhaar number, in physical or electronic form, subject to authentication and other conditions, may be accepted as proof of identity of the Aadhaar number holder for any purpose. However, it does not by itself, confer any right of, or be proof of, citizenship or domicile in respect of an Aadhaar number holder.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), established in the Planning Commission vide a notification of the Government of India (number A-43011/02/2009-Admin. I dated the 28 January, 2009), is responsible for the processes of enrolment and authentication and such other functions as may be assigned to it under the Aadhaar Act 2016. Aadhaar is issued by UIDAI on behalf of the Government of India. Aadhaar letter received via India Post and e-Aadhaar downloaded from UIDAI website are equally valid.In case a person loses his Aadhaar card, he can download his Aadhaar card free of cost from The print out of the downloaded Aadhaar, even in black and white form, is as valid as the original Aadhaar letter sent by UIDAI. There is no need to print it on plastic card or get it laminated.

The UIDAI takes special measures to issue Aadhaar number to women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability, unskilled and unorganised workers, nomadic tribes or to such other persons who do not have any permanent dwelling house. In that way Aadhaar may become the first ever proof of identification to such individuals.

Aadhaar is considered as the largest online digital identity platform in the world.


Aadhaar is primarily issued for ensuring good governance and for efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services to individuals residing in India, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India. Here the words

“subsidy” means any form of aid, support, grant, subvention, or appropriation, in cash or kind, to an individual or a group of individuals and includes such other subsidies as may be notified by the Central Government.

“service” means any provision, facility, utility or any other assistance provided in any form to an individual or a group of individuals and includes such other services as may be notified by the Central Government; and

“benefit” means any advantage, gift, reward, relief, or payment, in cash or kind, provided to an individual or a group of individuals and includes such other benefits as may be notified by the Central Government;

Under The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Central / state Government may, for the purpose of establishing identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure (in part or full) is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, stipulate that such individuals may acquire Aadhaar or undergo authentication, or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number.  If an Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual, the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service.


Issue of Aadhaar
The methodology for generation of unique identity number (Aadhaar) for residents of India involves usage of certain basic demographic (name, age, gender and address) and biometric information (ten finger prints, two iris images), along with a photograph, so as to uniquely identify a resident, after a process of biometric de-duplication. The process of biometric de-duplication helps in ensuring uniqueness to a high degree of accuracy, exceeding 99%. The data collected during enrolment process is immediately encrypted and transmitted to Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR)[2] of UIDAI for further processing.

After a series of validation/quality checks, the residents’ biometrics are matched against the existing database of UIDAI, on a 1:N matching basis, to determine if the resident has previously  been enrolled. Currently, over 700 trillion matches are carried out each day to ensure exhaustive de-duplication. The process involves various stages such as automated data validation, manual quality checks, demographic de-duplication, and biometric de-duplication. As per the information submitted to the Parliament in March 2015, more than 9 crore enrollment packets have been rejected uptill March 2015, since they did not meet the quality and de-duplication criteria. A dedicated Fraud Investigation and Analytics team has been deployed to ensure compliance with various fraud detection rules. Further, periodic exploratory data analysis of UIDAI database is undertaken to detect any fraudulent patterns in the system. 

In case any biometric information of Aadhaar number holder is lost or changes subsequently for any reason, the Aadhaar number holder can request the UIDAI to make necessary alteration in his record in the Central Identities Data Repository. The UIDAI may also require Aadhaar number holders to update their demographic information and biometric information, from time to time.

For more details on the operational aspects of issue of Aadhaar see here.


Ensuring Privacy of Aadhaar data
Biometric information is deemed to be sensitive personal information under the Aadhaar Act, 2016.

The UIDAI is mandated to take all necessary measures to ensure that the information in the possession or control of the UIDAI, including information stored in the Central Identities Data Repository, is secured and protected against access, use or disclosure not permitted under the law, and against accidental or intentional destruction, loss or damage.

However in the interest of national security, the Aadhaar Act permits any disclosure of information, including identity information or authentication made. This is made in pursuance of a direction of a officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India specially authorised in this behalf by an order of the Central Government: Every direction issued shall be reviewed by an Oversight Committee consisting of the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries to the Government of India in the Department of Legal Affairs and the Department of Electronics & Information Technology, before it takes effect: Such directions shall be valid for a period of three months from the date of its issue, which may be extended for a further period of three months after the review by the Oversight Committee.

The Aadhaar enrolling agency has to inform the individual the following details at the time of enrolment

Further, an entity requesting for authentication of the biometric /demographic information of an individual has to obtain the consent of an individual before collecting his identity information for the purposes of authentication and ensure that the identity information of an individual is only used for submission to the Central Identities Data Repository for authentication.

Whoever impersonates or attempts to impersonate another person, whether dead or alive, real or imaginary, by providing any false demographic information or biometric information, would be punishable with three years imprisonment or with a fine which may extend to rupees 10,000/- or with both. Same punishment exists for those who try to manipulate records or unauthorisedly access or disclose the information. Unauthorised data destruction / manipulation / access / disclosure of CIDRs shall be punishable with three years imprisonment and shall also be liable to a fine which shall not be less than 10 lakh rupees.


Coverage under Aadhaar
The first Aadhaar was issued in 2010. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) generated the 100thcrore (1 billionth) Aadhaar on April 4, 2016, touching the landmark in a span of five-and-a-half years. Aadhaar coverage as on 4 April 2016 is at 93% (73.96 Crores) among people above the age of 18 (as per projected population figures of 2015). Around 22.25 Crore (or 67%) children of age 5-18 years have Aadhaar; Around 2.30 Crore (20%) children of age 0-5 years have Aadhaar;  Every day more than 5-7 lakhs people get enrolled for Aadhaar. UIDAI today has a capacity of generating and dispatching over 15 lakh Aadhaars every day


Usage of Aadhaar and its benefits
Government of India has been linking Aadhaar to various schemes and initiatives, including the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), MGNREGS, Pensions, Scholarships, PaHaL / Direct Benefit Transfer, Universal Account Number (UAN) of Employee’s Provident Fund Organization (EPFO), Public Distribution System (PDS), Passports, Attendance system in government offices, etc.   Since July 2017, Aadhaar is mandatory for obtaining a Permanent Account Number (PAN) issued by Income Tax Authorities and for making transactions above a certain threshold through various financial institutions.

As on 4 April 2016,


The number of transactions using Aadhaar Authentication has risen to 150.6 crore as on March 31, 2016, as compared to 8.82 crore on May 31, 2014. The number of e-KYC transactions has gone up to 8.4 crore as on March 31, 2016 as against 2.7 lakh transaction on May 31, 2014.

Aadhaar Payment Bridge (APB) has been developed which enables disbursal of benefits /other payments directly to the beneficiary through his Aadhaar number without requiring his bank details. As on 4 April 2016, more than 23 crore people have linked their bank accounts to their Aadhaars on the Aadhaar Payment Bridge. Total number of transactions on the APB was logged at 94.71 crore worth Rs. 28,363 crore, a handsome rise compared to the data on May 31, 2014 - 7.13 crore APB transactions worth Rs. 4,474 crore.

Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) is a mechanism through which a beneficiary in a remote village, without having access to a bank branch is able to withdraw or deposit money at his doorstep by giving his Aadhaar and fingerprint on a micro-ATM.  Total number of AEPS transactions has gone up to 10.76 crore as on March 31, 2016, as against 46 lakh logged on May 31, 2014.

Aadhaar’s use in the distribution of LPG subsidy (DBTL (Pahal)) has resulted in an  – estimated savings of Rs 14,672 cr. Its use in the food public distribution system (PDS) has resulted in an estimated savings of Rs 2,346 cr. across 4 states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry and Delhi. Aadhaar is used in the distribution of scholarships and pensions (NSAP) with an estimated savings of Rs 276 cr. (across 3 states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab) and Rs 66 cr. (across 3 states of Jharkhand, Chandigarh and Puducherry) respectively.

(Information in this section is based on the Press release of Ministry of Planning dated 4 April 2016)

1. It was passed as a money bill by Lok Sabha on 11 March 2016

2. It is a centralised database in one or more locations containing all Aadhaar numbers issued to Aadhaar number holders along with the corresponding demographic information and biometric information of such individuals and other related information.


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