The Unique Identification project was initially conceived by then Planning Commission as an initiative that would provide a clear and unique identity number for each resident across the country and would be used primarily as the basis for efficient delivery of welfare services. It would also act as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the Government.
Much before the creation of the UIDAI, efforts were undertaken by the Government of India to provide an identity to residents first in 1993, with the issuance of photo identity cards by the Election Commission, and further in 2003, with the approval of Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC).
The concept of unique identification was first discussed and worked upon in 2006, when administrative approval for the project “Unique ID for BPL families” was given on 03 March 2006 by the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. This project was to be implemented by NIC over a period of 12 months. Subsequently, a Processes Committee to suggest processes for updation, modification, addition and deletion of data fields from the core database under the Unique ID for BPL families Project was set up on 03 July 2006.
Thereafter, a “Strategic Vision on the UID Project” was prepared by M/s Wipro Ltd (consultant for the design phase and program management phase of the Pilot UIDAI project) and submitted to the Processes Committee. It envisaged the close linkage that the UID would have to the electoral database. The Committee also appreciated the need of a UID Authority to be created by an executive order under the aegis of the then Planning Commission to ensure a pan-departmental and neutral identity for the Authority and at the same time enable a focused approach to attain the goals set for the XI Plan. The seventh meeting of the Process Committee on 30 August 2007 decided to furnish to then Planning Commission a detailed proposal based on the resource model for seeking its “in principle” approval.
At the same time, the Registrar General of India was engaged in the creation of the National Population Register and issuance of Multi-purpose National Identity Cards to citizens of India. Therefore, it was decided, with the approval of the Prime Minister, to constitute an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) to collate the two schemes – the National Population Register under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Unique Identification Number project of the Department of Information Technology.
Subsequent to the recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries and decision of the EGoM, the UIDAI was constituted and notified by then Planning Commission in January 2009 as an attached office of the then Planning Commission with the role and responsibilities laid down in the said notification. Shri Nandan Nilekani was appointed as the first Chairperson of the UIDAI vide notification (No.-A-43011/02/2009-Admn.I (Vol. II) on 02 July 2009 in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister for an initial tenure of five years. Shri Ram Sevak Sharma, IAS, joined the authority as its first Director General in July 2009.
The Prime Minister’s Council on UIDAI, constituted on 30 July 2009 in its first meeting on 12 August 2009 approved the broad strategy and approach on UID system submitted by the UIDAI.
Later, this Council was substituted by a Cabinet Committee on UIDAI which was constituted by the Government of India vide its order no. 1/11/6/2009 dated 22 October 2009. The functions of this Committee, as per this notification included all issues relating to the Unique identification Authority of India including its organization, plans, policies, programmes, schemes, funding and methodology to be adopted for achieving the objectives of the Authority.