Aadhaar: A Biometric History of India's 12 Digit Revolution


Aadhaar was born in July 2009, yoking modern technology and management expertise to political will. The biometric-based unique identification system, built by tech czar Nandan Nilekani and his team of innovators, was designed to enable subsidies and social spends reach their true destination, plug institutional corruption and save trillions of tax-rupees. In July 2017, Aadhaar is 1.15 billion identities and growing.

In Aadhaar: A Biometric History of India’s 12-digit Revolution, Visiting Fellow Shankkar Aiyar traces the history of this ambitious, controversial undertaking. He speaks with President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram, Yashwant Sinha, Rahul Gandhi and others to document how politicians with diametrically opposed ideologies were equally determined to propel Aadhaar.

Aiyar maps how Aadhaar’s application expanded beyond its original intent. He researches its ups, downs, and turnarounds; discusses the concerns of activists and bureaucrats on potential misuse of the database for state surveillance; raises the urgent need for a data-protection and privacy law and spells out the solutions. 

An unusual contemporary dramatization, this book is a breathless ride through recent changes in India’s political and economic landscape.


The book is available on Amazon, India here


Shankkar Aiyar

Shankkar Aiyar is Visiting Fellow at IDFC Institute. He is a prominent India-based journalist, analyst, columnist and author. His path-breaking book, "Accidental India: A History of the Nation’s Passage through Crisis and Change" has earned him national acclaim as a public intellectual.

As an analyst, Aiyar specialises in the interface between economics and politics.  As a public intellectual, he comments on how politics impacts people, governance, and the economy. A journalist for over three decades – his 1991 scoop on a bankrupt India pledging its gold reserves made national headlines – he has won awards and been at the helm of a national newspaper and newsweekly. 

Aiyar, 54, has authored a study on India’s Socio-Economic Fault Lines and its 100 worst districts. His investigation on 25 years of political corruption, Smoking Guns, is part of an anthology on Indian journalism. He has been a Wolfson Chevening Fellow at Cambridge University where he studied the Lifecycles of Emerging Economies.

Aiyar is a columnist with for national newspapers, is an empanelled expert on the political economy for news channels and is invited to decode the interface of politics and economics for Indian and international audiences.

Aiyar is currently working on evolving demographics and implications for the next economy.


Official Book Launch by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
Shankkar Aiyar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Panel discussion at the official launch of Aadhar: A Biometric History of India's 12 Digit Revolution
Shankkar Aiyar with former President Pranab Mukherjee
Book Discussion with Sumita Kale and Amit Paranjape
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