Didn't grasp govt dynamics, but have support: Nilekani

ADDA

Nandan Nilekani is not just determined to provide Aadhaar, the 12-digit individual identification number, to citizens across India but to make the idea "irreversible" and "sustainable" before the next elections.

"Making Aadhaar irreversible is a very important strategic objective. I think the irreversibility comes when half a billion Indians have Aadhaar number," Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said at the Express Adda here Thursday evening. "If we can reach 500 million people by 2014, then I think it's set."

On opposition to the concept within the government, he said he "didn't understand the internal competitive dynamics of the government".

However, Nilekani added, Aadhaar had got "terrific momentum" and "huge support" from various departments. "I received tremendous political support. It was tripartisan support... from UPA-ruled states, BJP states and Tripura. I personally went to every state and met the chief minister and bureaucrats."

"Fundamentally you can't do a project of this scale which has the potential to cause so much disruptive change without unstinted political endorsement. I think all key people in the government provided that unstinted political endorsement."

Nilekani, who was in conversation with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta and McKinsey & Company Chairman, India, Adil Zainulbhai, also said there was no real measurement of performance in something like UID. "My team at UIDAI is extremely passionate and the best part is that they are from the system," he said.

Asked about the most challenging problem he had faced, the Infosys co-founder said: "Getting that design and architecture right to make a change is very, very important... When you want to make a change, there will always be a negative coalition against what you are doing. How do you create a minimally invasive method of implementing a change? Change by method is opposed. Make your change blunt... We can't do much except move quickly and expeditiously."

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