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February 26, 2013

India Launches Massive I.D. Project

Watch India Organizes One of Largest ID Registration Drives Ever on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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While Americans take it for granted that they will receive a birth certificate, a Social Security card and a driver’s license or ID during their lifetimes, this is not case for many people around the world.

India, home to approximately 1.2 billion people, is embarking on a massive project to register everyone in the country for a national I.D. that it hopes will solve some of the country’s problems.

“We still have a large number of residents of India who don’t have a birth certificate or any other form of official I.D.” said Nandan Nilekani, a retired software billionaire who is in charge of registration drive. “In the old days, when they lived their entire life in a single village, it maybe didn’t matter, but now, with the highly mobile and aspirational society, you need some kind of an I.D.”

The I.D. program aims to help India improve the way it serves the poor and distributes services. Currently, many I.D.s in the country can easily be forged, thereby paving the way for corruption and fraud. By having a national I.D. card, the government will be better able to make sure that benefits go directly to the correct person.

The new system uses biometric identification, including iris scans and fingerprints in addition to the traditional picture and personal information, to eliminate the possibility of fraud.

The program aims to enroll 600 million people in two years; half of all Indians and one-tenth of all humanity.


“This will play a huge role in reducing corruption and harassment for the common man. The government wants to make sure that benefits go electronically and directly to the genuine beneficiary,” – Nandan Nilekani, Retired Software Billionaire.

Warm up questions

1. Do you have any forms of I.D.? If so, how many, and what are they?

2. What is the purpose of having an I.D.?

3. What sort of information goes on an I.D.?

Discussion questions

1. Do you agree with Mr. Nilekani that I.D. is necessary to a “highly mobile and aspirational society”? Why or why not?

2. Do you think that the privacy concerns raised by the video are valid? Would you want to provide that sort of information? Why or why not?

3. Do you think the United States should have a form of national I.D. instead of leaving it up to the states? Why or why not?

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