Nandan Nilekani
Nandan Nelikani, former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India.Reuters

The Aadhaar card, which gives unique identification to residents of the country, has now become the leading biometric identification programme globally, as the number of such cards issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) reaches around 82 crore cards in April.

Enrolment figures in Aadhaar card programme is far ahead compared to 15 crore registrations in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) biometric database in the US, and with more number of Indians are estimated to enrol for the card, the programme is almost certain to be the largest of its kind in the world.

As on 20 April, the total number of Aadhaar cards issued by UIDAI reached 81.78 crore, with 67% of the country's 121 crore population possessing the card.

Many thought the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government would dump the programme after it came to power in May last year. However, following the intervention of the former chairman of UIDAI Nandan Nilekani, who explained the merits of biometric ID system to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government has been putting it to use as a major tool to control subsidy leakages and carry out financial inclusion programme such as Jan Dhan Yojana.

"It is a very scientific and useful instrument. Although, we have not made it mandatory for the Aadhaar card for claiming subsidies, our experience has been positive," Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told The Times of India.

Among the states, Uttar Pradesh saw the maximum number of enrolments with 10.48 crore cards, followed by Maharastra with 9.19 crore cards.

"Aadhaar has been useful to create basic information in India. But to make it a game changer, it needs to be linked to Jan Dhan accounts while scaling up DBT," said Ashok Gulati, Infosys chair professor on agriculture at ICRIER.