Friday, August 26, 2011

Unique Identification Number

A couple of days ago we get a campus message saying that they are facilitating the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) in the process of issuing unique identification numbers to each of us. Long sentence but grammatically correct. We try and see what it means.

"What is unique about this scheme?" we wonder. What is different about this from the five census and one electoral identification schemes each year.

"Don't you know?" says one smart, techie prof from Mechanical Engineering. "They are going to scan your retina. It's amazing technology. All the big IT and company guys are keen on this. Think of the cost! Amazing!"

"Yes!" say some others enthusiastically. "And you will be fingerprinted. And thumb printed as well!"

Well, it sounds only marginally worse than applying for a U.S. or U.K. visa, so we shuffle along to the large lecture hall, where we find fifty candidates already seated ahead of us, with that determined look on their faces we see in people who are waiting for an examination. Well, we shuffle some more, look at each other and ask, "Is it worth it?"

Outside, the sun is shining and some protesting students are making paper planes out of the UIDAI forms and throwing them about. They are not doing a very good job of this as the planes are not flying at all but falling flat on their noses. Inside, there are murmurs of how this scheme will usher in a new way of dealing with things, all high tech and fancy sounding.

We look at each other once more and then someone else enters. We immediately sit down for fear of losing our seats. And then we wait - and wait and wait. And curse, silently at first and less silently as minutes go by. Each person is taking twenty minutes on average, and there are still forty five fellows and dames waiting; only one man to check the identification details and the place closes at 8 p.m. Plenty of time for that mental math.
"Don't worry," I say to my husband, who has already made two trips to his lab and back, "I think that man will start rushing around tea time. Meanwhile, let me go home and cook dinner."

I go home and return with a racy novel and a bottle of water and take my seat. My neighbour is fidgeting now and all of a sudden the big table in front is buzzing with low level sounds and people. My neighbour is fretting; swiftly he stands up and yells,"Move those people away from that table. Hey you! Security! Get them away. We have all been waiting here!" Heads turn and people strangely slink away from the table. Security man, who is just a normal looking guy like us, sits down at the table pretending to keep an eye on things. My neighbour (a prof.) says, "See- all these forms- these people have been slipping them in without waiting." I frown and nod in support. Then we wait some more.

Finally, after shuffling, row by row, we reach the front. My husband looks at me, "Did you bring the bank details?"
"That is optional," I reply. "We are not submitting them."
We look at the line of people with documents in their hands- phone bills, gas connections, bank statements, passport, driving license, school leaving certificates, ration cards and maybe other stuff too. We look at each other. My husband rushes out, back home, to get some more papers.

The line crawls along. My husband returns in the nick of time. I open my bag and check my passport. It has expired! I have brought my old one! Anyway, all they need is a driving license, I say to myself. And then, we are on stage!!!

Hah! It only takes us five minutes, and that too because I show only my driving license at first. "Passport is preferable," says the man and I take it out like an automaton. He looks at it in the same way, there is so much data to note that he does not see that it is the old one. Anyway. We realize that many people before us had not filled in the forms and so maybe it takes them longer. Maybe they write in a more meticulous way than we have done. Anyway, step one is over. We leave only to realize that we both have the same UID number. Unique?

Behind me is an elderly guy and a very pregnant lady, still managing to sit and wait. Now the solitary man on the table decides that he is thirsty and needs to take a tea break.

We shuffle upstairs and by this time we are tired and thirsty too. Upstairs there is a false ceiling and the room is hot. My husband waits in line while I lounge on the roof above the ladies toilet and kitchen disposal area. It smells not so good, but at least I get some oxygen. I open my book and read and keep reading till it is dark and I cannot see the words clearly. My husband calls on the cell phone. Oh, the wonders of technology! I go back inside and wait a little more.

Eventually I reach the scanning counter. I check the data and again show my driving license and passport and it is over. Almost! We need to check if my husband and I have been given the same Unique Identification Number. We ask the man. Fortunately the place where UID is supposed to be written is only the verification number, which is common for us. The actual UID is different. This is a relief otherwise we would have to shuffle back down.

There is a small space left unfilled on the form. It is mandatory only for children below the age of six and asks for the names of their parents and spouses. However, it seems that we must all fill it in. We do the needful and oblige. And finally, all is done. We leave with a small print out, a promise of glorious things to come- now we can open a bank account easily because we have proved that we are Indian and moreover, we live in India! What better way to show this than the UIDAI card? And if someone doubts us, they just have to look into our eyes and see that we are telling the truth.


Hetal said...


We went through the entire process and did get that printout on 16th June. After 2+ months, he website still has "id not found" error on the status display page. There is no response to emails sent to which is the email address listed on the website.

So yes, don't be so happy yet. It might still be a long wait, and yet another ordeal.


Sujata Varadarajan said...

Thanks Hetal, for bringing me down to earth in good time. Let's see how this process pans out.


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