After almost a year’s stand-off with the ministry of home and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), there has been some headway in a proposal to use Aadhaar-based electronic Know Your Customer (KYC) data to allot mobile telephone SIM cards.
All stakeholders have agreed to conduct a project for testing the efficacy. Based on the findings, a decision will be taken on the way ahead.
According to a government official, an experiment will be conducted in the five circles of Bhopal, Kolkata, Delhi, Lucknow and Bengaluru by telecom operators. These include the state-run BSNL and MTNL, plus private companies Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance and Idea.
Under the proposal, a person would get a new SIM card issued on his or her name instantaneously by punching in the Aadhaar number and biometrics, without needing to present a physical documentary proof. The Unique Identification Authority (UID) servers from the back-end will verify the antecedents.
The Aadhaar letter has been recognized as a valid proof of address and identity for issuing of SIM cards. However, the IB and home ministry had reservations about allowing e-KYC for this. The concern is misuse by terrorists or criminal elements.
The government official said e-KYC was more robust than physical documents. “No one person can own more than nine SIM cards and e-KYC will ensure a way to track the number of SIMs issued on one person’s name, difficult in the case of physical documents.” It has been reported that in one instance, 7,000 SIMs were found to be issued on the basis of one document, the person added.
All major telecom operators involved are pushing the initiative, as e-KYC will save them a significant cost in data storage and verification. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India imposes heavy fines on operators for not maintaining adequate KYC. They are expected to initially deploy authentication devices in company-owned outlets.
However, another government official said the secujrity concerns were valid. For, SIM cards would be issued on the basis of the address in the Aadhaar database, which in many cases is not correct. “There is an inherent flaw in the database and cases of mixed biometrics and fake identity are being reported.” The person added extreme care needs to be taken in the case of SIM cards. “Bomb blasts are triggered through SIM cards,” the person added.
The project is being emphasised since the government’s Digital India project seeks to link mobile SIM cards with the UID number.
Earlier, a government official had told Business Standard that a mobile phone number was being considered a medium to act as an identifier for all government schemes. “Till the time a person disputes it, the government will use the number to disburse information about that person’s transactions with the government,” the official had said.