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India has over a billion Aadhaar IDs—including for dogs, spies, and even gods

Reuters/Abhishek N. Chinnappa
  • Kuwar Singh
By Kuwar Singh


Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

India’s supreme court today (Sept. 26) upheld the constitutional validity of the world’s largest biometric ID programme, Aadhaar. However, the system is far from foolproof.

“Many arguments of the petitioners relate to the working of the system…It was clarified that since Aadhaar project is an ongoing project, there may be some glitches in its working and there is a continuous attempt to make improvements in order to ensure that it becomes foolproof over a period of time,” the government told the court, according to the judgment (pdf).

While more than 1.2 billion people, or 90% of the country’s population, have enrolled since 2010, the system has recorded curious errors ranging from database leaks to fake registrations.

Here is a snapshot of the most unlikely applicants of Aadhaar:

Holy ID

The Hindu god Hanuman had his Aadhaar card made as early as 2014 in the state of Rajasthan. His name on the official record was listed as “Hanuman ji,” and in deference to mythological accuracy, the Hindu god of wind, Pawan, was listed as his father. The unique identification number on the card was also linked to a cooking gas connection and a bank account.

The post office could not deliver the card since, according to the postmaster, Hanuman’s phone “was switched off.”

UIDAI later clarified the incident was an “exceptional case.” But Aadhaar cards have also been reportedly issued to other Hindu deities, Saraswati and Krishna, too.

Card-holding canines

Mohammad Azam Khan, the supervisor of an Aadhaar enrolment agency in the state of Madhya Pradesh, got one Aadhaar number for his dog Tommy Singh in 2015. The police arrested Khan on charges of forgery after local residents complained. The dog’s Aadhaar was also linked to a cooking gas connection. “I have not been myself lately and so, two months ago, I got my dog’s Aadhaar card made,” Khan reportedly said in July 2015.

Two other dogs, Mantu and Teena, were also issued Aadhaar cards in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

A Chinese national

On Sept. 21, the Haryana police arrested a Chinese national in Delhi on espionage charges. Charlie Peng had an Aadhaar card as well as an Indian passport. The police accused him of running a spy network in India from his Gurugram office.

A Pakistan diplomatic staffer

A staffer at the Pakistani high commission in India was arrested with an Aadhaar card in October 2016. Mehboob Akhtar’s name was conspicuously listed as “Mehboob Rajput” in the Aadhaar records. India expelled Akhtar following the incident.

Another Pakistani individual arrested on espionage charges in November 2015 was also found to have an Aadhaar card.

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