India May Add Biometric Information to National ID

July 10, 2006
Proposal would require either fingerprint or cornea data, would help secure country's PAN cards

NEW DELHI: With security concerns in mind, the government is contemplating the introduction of biometric PAN cards which would mean that you have to provide your fingerprint or cornea impression.

While the proposal is yet to be formalised, FM P Chidambaram on Tuesday said the move would help in making the PAN cards foolproof.

Though officials fear that I-T department may face some criticism for seeking more details, the price of the cards appears to be a bigger problem for the moment. At present, getting a PAN card costs Rs 67.

Preliminary estimates with the I-T department suggests that the biometric cards could cost between Rs 200 and Rs 300. There would also be a cost to set up the infrastructure to issue these cards.

The move to introduce new PAN cards has been prompted not just by recent incidents of issue of fake cards but also terrorism threat.

Though the department never intended it that way, PAN cards have now turned into some sort of an identity card which is used for a host of transactions ranging from getting a mobile connection to opening a bank account.

And with the criteria for proof of residence being quite liberal, the government fears that PAN cards could be an easy tool for terrorists to open bank accounts to finance their activities besides getting mobile connections.

This could also mean that like a mobile connection, the tax department may get a little more stringent with address verification and proof of residence for issuing PAN cards.

What happens to the 4.6 crore PAN holders is unclear at present, with FM saying that the department would come out with a detailed policy soon. But there is respite for the aam admi for the moment, with the I-T department deciding against increasing the coverage of PAN for more transactions.

It is, however, serious about cracking down on those possessing bogus or duplicate permanent account numbers, for which it is launching a massive campaign.