Banks once sent employees to the homes of account applicants to verify their addresses.
Now, accounts can be opened online and finished with a fingerprint scan at a branch or other authorized outlet.
People filling out forms to register for the Aadhaar system in New Delhi.
One advantage cited for using biometric data is that it can identify people who are illiterate or have no proper identification.
The poor must scan their fingerprints at the ration shop to get their government allocations of rice. Middle-school students cannot enter the water department’s annual painting contest until they submit their identification.
In some cities, newborns cannot leave the hospital until their parents sign them up.
Even leprosy patients, whose illness damages their fingers and eyes, have been told they must pass fingerprint or iris scans to get their benefits.
The government argues that the universal ID is vital in a country where hundreds of millions of people do not have widely accepted identification documents.“The people themselves are the biggest beneficiaries,” said Ajay B.To the government, it’s more like “big brother,” a term of endearment used by many Indians to address a stranger when asking for help.For other countries, the technology could provide a model for how to track their residents. The government has made registration mandatory for hundreds of public services and many private ones, from taking school exams to opening bank accounts.“You almost feel like life is going to stop without an Aadhaar,” Ms. Technology has given governments around the world new tools to monitor their citizens.But India’s program is in a league of its own, both in the mass collection of biometric data and in the attempt to link it to everything — traffic tickets, bank accounts, pensions, even meals for undernourished schoolchildren.“No one has approached that scale and that ambition,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, a professor and research director of Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, who has studied biometric ID systems around the world.“It has been hailed, and justifiably so, as an extraordinary triumph to get everyone registered.”Critics fear that the government will gain unprecedented insight into the lives of all Indians.