Aadhaar linking with mobile number, bank a/c, PAN: Should you wait till the last minute?

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Aadhaar linking with mobile number, bank a/c, PAN: Should you wait till the last minute?

From January 1, telecom operators will roll out the much-delayed voice-guided system that will help subscribers complete the process of linking Aadhaar to mobile number through a one-time password (OTP).

Procrastinators around the country can't stop gloating. First came the news that the government has extended the deadline for mandatorily linking Aadhaar to various essential services like PAN and bank accounts till March 31. And now, reportedly, telecom providers are finally ready to allow mobile subscribers to link their numbers with Aadhaar from the comfort of their homes. From January 1, telecom operators will roll out the much-delayed voice-guided system that will help subscribers complete the process through a one-time password (OTP). So one no longer needs to visit the customer centres of mobile companies and deal with biometric machines that aren't functioning properly to comply with the government's wishes.

For the record, this facility comes over a month later than the original scheduled roll-out date and follows a war of words between the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the body issuing the biometrics-based Aadhaar number, and the telecom companies. Their lobby group, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), has previously accused UIDAI of prematurely announcing the launch of the OTP facility-first from November 15, then from December 1-despite operators citing technical difficulties, logistics issues and an unrealistically tight implementation timeline.

With over 50 crore subscribers yet to get their numbers confirmed, according to The Times of India, and given the government's unwillingness to push back the February 6 deadline to get mobile numbers linked with Aadhaar, an OTP-based system is seen as the fastest and most convenient route for subscribers. Those who haven't done so by the end of the first week of February risk getting their connections disconnected.

In the OTP system, a subscriber just needs to call the Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) from his/her mobile number and give consent for verification with the Aadhaar number following which he/she receives an OTP. Once the OTP that is keyed in is verified to be accurate, the process is complete.

But while the folks still dithering on climbing aboard the Aadhaar bandwagon seem to have had it far easier than all the early birds who had to deal with the teething troubles at Aadhaar centres, they have a whole new kind of problem staring them in the face. According to media reports, there are a fewer number of functioning Aadhaar enrolment centres to cater to procrastinators, especially those galvanised into action by new rules-like CBSE recently making Aadhaar mandatory for applying for JEE Mains 2018 exam, which is required for admission to various engineering colleges, and the last date for online applications in January 1.

According to a Midday report, because of this scarcity, people in Mumbai have been struggling to get an Aadhaar card for two months without success. The number of operational centres in Mumbai is currently 51, down from over 450 centres in 2015, at the height of the registration drive. A similar story is reportedly playing out across the country.

Though the UIDAI tried to address the bottleneck by roping in banks in order to expand the enrolment centres network, only a limited number of branches are offering the service, a situation made worse by the fact that very few appointment tokens are being handed out daily. "In all of Mulund, there is there's just one centre and that accepts only 20 tokens a day," a resident told Midday, adding that people apparently queue up as early as 3am to get a token.

So it may no longer be a good idea to wait till the eleventh hour to get enrolled and comply with the government's drive. Unless you are now waiting for a favourable Supreme Court judgement on the matter-a bunch of petitions claiming that making Aadhaar compulsory is a breach of privacy are supposed to be heard by a constitutional bench this week.