10,000 unique IDs may reach wrong addresses

Sep 30, 2011, 11:38 IST | Saurabh Katkurwar

Many acknowledgement forms of Vashi residents of the Thane district mention the wrong districts and/or wrong post office in the mailing address, owing to software problems; apathetic operators have requested them to 'let it be'

Many acknowledgement forms of Vashi residents of the Thane district mention the wrong districts and/or wrong post office in the mailing address, owing to software problems; apathetic operators have requested them to 'let it be'

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), spearheading AADHAR, the ambitious unique identification project, is on the brink of doling out uniquely erroneous ID cards to its applicants who live in Vashi. The project, which was inaugurated with great fanfare exactly a year ago, has run into trouble, owing to a faltering software system and apathetic officials.

Nandan Nilekani, a former co-chairman of Infosys Technologies, was
appointed as the first chairman of Aadhar in June 2009

When Vashi residents checked their acknowledgement forms online, they were shocked to discover that the software had erroneously categorised them as residents of the Raigarh district, even though the residential township in Navi Mumbai is situated in the heart of Thane district.

When bewildered residents brought this to the note of the operators at the UID centres, the errors were attributed to a 'technical snag' in the centralised software used for the UID project across the country. Adding insult to injury, the apathetic operators allegedly asked the residents to ignore the errors in the addresses.

Praful Mhatre's receipt also shows a different address

The residents fear that the erroneous mailing addresses could give rise to mayhem when the cards are dispatched to residents by post, as they could well reach Raigarh district instead of Thane.

Ironically, the Directorate of Information Technology of Maharashtra, which is one of the bodies significantly responsible for this slip up, received the Aadhaar Excellence Award at the programme's first anniversary celebrations, which were held in New Delhi yesterday.

Vashi resident Praful Mhatre said, "I was shocked to discover that the software classifies residents with our pin code as inhabitants of the Raigarh district, and not Thane district. There were also mistakes in the entry of the post office, as well as grammatical errors. My residence falls under the jurisdiction of the Vashi post office, but the UID acknowledgement copy says it is Turbhe post office. When we approached the operators to get the mistakes rectified, they asked us to turn a blind eye to them. The UID card is going to be a very important document for us in the near future. How can such mistakes appear, when a separate body has been formed for the project, with highly qualified technicians on its rolls?"

Vijendra Khupte, resident of Vashi said, "When the software system showed Raigarh in the enrollment form instead of Thane, I refused to accept the printout, and asked the operator at the UID centre to fix the problem. In order to change the district to Thane, the operator simply changed my pin code from 400703, to 400705. So now, while my form shows the correct district, it has the wrong pin code, that of Sanpada." 

In another case, acknowledgement copies obtained by  three members of the same family showed different addresses.

Vashi resident Swapnil Mhaske said, "In the acknowledgement copies received by my mother and sister, the space under the category of district shows Mumbai, while mine shows Raigarh. We are all residents of Thane.

When we pointed out the errors to the operator, he shrugged and said he could not  do anything about technical errors."

Predicting some of the consequences of the snag, Mhatre said, "As the districts of Raigarh and Mumbai both have places named Vashi, there could be confusion during the delivery of the letters. The confused post offices would simply store the letters, or return them to the UIDAI."

Who's in charge?
As the hapless residents mull what their next move should be, the relevant authorities -- UIDAI's technical wing in Bangalore, the state government's IT department, and Navi Mumbai's Municipal Corporation (NMMC) -- are busy passing the buck to each other.

In Navi Mumbai, three firms -- Maha Online, Tera Software and Wipro -- have been assigned to carry out enrollment and registration for the project at 24 centres, while the NMMC has been appointed as the supervising body. It appears, however, that neither body is equipped with personnel who can tackle the technical errors that have cropped up.

Suresh Patil, deputy commissioner of NMMC, said, "NMMC's designated task is to provide space for the UID centres, and ensure smooth functioning of the process of enrolment and registration. We have not been asked to deal with technical snags."

Dattaray Patne, site in-charge with Wipro Limited, said, "The IT department of the state government provided us the client software. We were asked to apply the software, not modify it. We have asked the IT department to make the necessary rectifications."

Dr Santosh Bhogle, undersecretary of the Directorate of Information Technology, Maharashtra, said, "We are aware that errors have cropped up in the mailing addresses, and have contacted the regional office of UIDAI.

The officials in charge have assured us that they will fix the problems soon. We will be taking strong action against the UID centres if we learn that they are violating guidelines. We are planning to write to UIDAI seeking permission to stall the enrollment process at centres in Vashi, at least till the software issue can be sorted."

"We understand that the errors are occurring owing to the overlapping of information in the software system.

The technical wing of UIDAI in Bangalore designed the project software in association with a software firm called MindTree Ltd. We have called for a meeting on Sept 30 to discuss the fiasco," said an UIDAI official, on condition of anonymity.

R S Sharma, director general of UIDAI, however, could not be reached for comment.

Shobha Madhale, director of Mumbai GPO, said, "We have tied up with the UIDAI for delivery of UID number letters. If the letters are not delivered, we will be returning them to the sender, the UIDAI."

Asked about the measures taken to ensure delivery of the cards, Patil replied, "The NMMC has sent a letter to post offices in Vashi, asking them to deliver the letters they receive from the UIDAI, even if the district is mentioned as Raigarh and not Thane. 

The number of companies appointed by the state's IT department for enrollment and registration of the UID applications

2.6 crore
The number of applicants who have enrolled for unique identities in Maharashtra

87 lakh
The number of applicants who have received UID numbers in the state so far

3 lakh
The number of Navi Mumbai residents who have enrolled for UIDs in the last eight months 

The number of acknowledgement forms that have errors in the mailing address

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