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Dudu (Rajasthan), Oct 20 (IANS) Nearly 240 million people have been registered for issuing Aadhaar cards bearing the unique 12-digit identification number given to residents of India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here Saturday. Over 600 million, or about half of the country, will receive the card by 2014.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi handed over the 21st crore (210 million) Aadhaar card to Bali Devi, a resident of Purawar village of Udaipur district. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), administers the Aadhaar card, bearing the unique number.
Singh was addressing a gathering of around 100,000 people at a ground in the town, some 60 km from Jaipur.
In attendance were Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahuluwalia, Minister of State for Science and Technology Ashwani Kumar and Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology Sachin Pilot.
Aadhaar was launched in 2010 to provide an irrefutable proof of identity to all citizens of India making it the world's largest biometric-based identity database.
"The first Aadhaar card was issued at a tribal village in Maharashtra about two years ago....now over 24 crore (240 million) people are registered under the project. Aadhaar has become one of the biggest projects of its kind in the entire world," Singh told the gathering.
"The UPA government had always worked for the welfare of the common (people). The project was launched to achieve the same objective," Singh added.
The project will "help implement the public welfare schemes launched by the UPA government in a more effective way. Complaints are received often that gas connections, diesel, fertilizers etc which are provided on subsidized rates don't reach the people," the prime minister said.
"These benefits could be made to reach people through direct cash transfer to the beneficiaries. We will ensure through Aadhaar numbers that money reach the right person," said Singh.
He also said that Aadhaar card will help citizens open bank accounts, get mobile phone connections, book air and rail tickets with ease. Students will get easy identity for scholarships.
He said that about 600 million people will receive Aadhaar cards by 2014. "We have tested the use of Aadhaar in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tripura and Maharashtra. We will extend the project to other parts of the country," said Singh.
Singh also awarded government officials from Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra for their extraordinary and innovative contribution to improve public service delivery using Aaadhar.
Launching the nationwide Aadhaar Enabled Service Delivery, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said in her address that the Aadhaar card will bring positive changes in the people's lives.
"Aadhaar is not just a card, it will become an 'Aadhaar' of every citizen in the country," said Gandhi.
Gehlot announced that the state government plans to give salaries to its employees on the basis of Aadhaar cards from February 2013. The state will also link benefit payments of 10 different government social schemes with the Aadhaar card, he said.