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New Role for Nilekani

Compiled/Written by Swati Bajpai Email Compiled/Written by Swati Bajpai
September 2009
New Role for Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, the company that put India on the world map, has taken on a new role. From being a corporate icon and a brand ambassador for India, he is now looking forward to walk in the hallowed corridors of Parliament House in New Delhi.

Fulfilling the role of a civic-minded intellectual, Nilekani has joined the Manmohan Singh-led government in the rank of a cabinet minister. He now serves as the chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which has been formed to create a national identification database for the country’s 1.2 billion citizens by 2011. The unique national IDs will have associated identifying biometric data and photographs. Analysts say the scheme has been launched to address the widespread embezzlement that affects subsidies and other poverty alleviation programs. It could also help with the problems of illegal immigration from India’s various porous borders, which in turn could help track terrorist activities.

As the unique identity database comes into existence, the various identity databases (passports, ration cards, driver licenses, fishing permits, border area ID cards, etc.) that already exist in India are expected to be linked to it. The Indian government has allocated an initial funding of $20 million for the agency.

The mammoth size and logistics involved in the program make it a challenge even for Nilekani, but he is a man who has made it a habit of overcoming all odds. His success with this venture might expose the political might of India to the entrepreneurial bright of the nation. Like Dr Sam Pitroda, who revolutionized India’s telecom sector during the Rajiv Gandhi regime, Nilekani could be writing another golden chapter of Indian history for the Manmohan Singh government.

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