Understanding Aadhaar Numbers

Aadhaar numbers are a form of official identification for residents of India. This government-managed program collects specific details about each person to whom an Aadhaar number is assigned, which allows for easy identification but also has caused a lot of controversy. Learn more about Aadhaar numbers and how they work.

What Is an Aadhaar Number?

Along with government identification tools such as the PAN (permanent account number) system, Aadhaar numbers are an official attempt to fight against fraud and streamline personal verification for Indians. The Hindi word aadhaar has an equivalent English translation of “base” or “foundation,” according to the Indian government, and its overall goal is to provide unique and robust identification for people living in India. The system works by collecting specific personal information from the people who apply for a number, including fingerprints and personal details like address, career information, gender, caste, religion, financial information and more. Applicants receive a unique 12-digit number to which this information is tied, though official government sources claim that only some of this information is stored on accessible databases.

Controversies and Security Issues

There have been a few notable controversies around the Aadhaar number system, including security problems. Thousands of people have had their Aadhaar number details exposed through major mistakes, including a database that wasn’t even secured by a password. In addition, the Aadhaar system has been blamed for an uptick in starvation deaths among impoverished people who have been unable to seek social services due to Aadhaar number identification issues.

Common Aadhaar Number Uses

Aadhaar numbers are frequently used as an official form of identification for things like opening bank accounts or applying for government assistance in India. The numbers can also be used to verify voters and otherwise ensure that a person is who they claim to be. The government’s goal in creating this system has been to streamline identification efforts and cut back on identity theft and other forms of personal identification fraud. In some cases, Aadhaar can also be used for private sector applications outside of the finance industry in India, including placing orders with online retailers and hailing rides through ridesharing apps.

Who Can Get an Aadhaar Number?

Any official resident of India can apply for an Aadhaar number. There are no age minimums or limits. You must be willing to share relevant information as part of your application, though, so anyone who is wary of giving up identification info and other highly personal information may want to consider whether this system is right for them.

Legality and Withdrawal

Though the Indian government and its officials have remained steadfast in their support of the Aadhaar number system, it was at one point subject to a legal challenge in the Indian Supreme Court. The system was upheld as constitutionally valid, but controversies and other issues with the system have led some people to want to withdraw their information and opt out of the system.