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Biometric Identity Project in India Aims to Provide For Poor, End Corruption


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Millions of Indians, including many migrant workers, lack the proper identification required to access government and financial services.

Rakesh Kumar

In this country of 1.2 billion people, Inderjit Chaurasia could not prove his identity.

When the migrant worker tried to open his first bank account in New Delhi, he was turned away because he had only a driver's license for identification. Then he applied for a government food-subsidy card but was rejected for the same reason.

"Everywhere I go, they ask me for proof of residence and income tax that I do not have," said Chaurasia, 32, adding that he has never voted or paid taxes. "We are migrant workers. We go where the job takes us. Where do we find identity papers?"

Millions of Indians like Chaurasia are unable to tap into government and financial services because they lack proper identification. And, many here say that corrupt officials routinely stuff welfare databases with fake names and steal money meant for the poor.

But a mammoth project underway aims to address that problem by assigning all Indians a unique identity number backed by their biometric details and storing that information in a gigantic online database. The government says the new system--which its creator calls a "turbocharged version" of the Social Security number--will cut fraud and ensure that people who need assistance can get it.

By bringing more people into the banking system, Indian officials also hope to raise the number of people paying income taxes, which currently stands at 5 percent.

From The Washington Post
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