Aadhar card with Lord Hanuman's photograph (photo: PTI)
This may have been the result of a prank, but the issuance of an Aadhar card in the name of Lord Hanuman has left more than a few red faces at the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the government agency responsible for issuing an unique identity to each resident of India.
Lord Hanuman is worshipped across the country for his devotion, loyalty and strength. In the epic Ramayana, he is devoted to the service of Lord Ram and his consort Sita. Lord Hanuman’s many accomplishments include carrying an entire mountain on one hand and vanquishing demons.
In the 21st century he has now been given a 12-digit number and an identity card replete with an iris scan and thumbprint.
The card, issued in the name of "Hanumana Ji", shows the deity wearing a crown and a string of pearls. It lists the cardholder's age as 55 years and his father's name as "Pawan Ji' (the Wind). According to the Ramayana, Hanuman is the son of Vayu, the Wind God.
A postman in Dantaramgarh, Rajasthan, discovered the error when he went to deliver the card that was dispatched from Bangalore last week. But there were no authentic recipients for it, post office authorities said.
“When postman Heera Lal received the card for delivery, he was shocked and brought the matter to the notice of senior officials. When they tried calling the number, it was switched off,” said Bhograj, the top official in the local postal department.
Eventually the mobile number on the application form led officials to Vicky Kumar, a computer operator who had applied for the fake identity.
"I tried three or four times to get an Aadhar card made, but my finger prints were not being accepted, so I applied in the name of Hanuman and I gave my address and phone number," Vicky told NDTV.
Apparently taken aback by the success of his prank, Vicky has reportedly refused to accept the card, which will now be sent back to Bangalore.
This episode raises questions about the checks being carried out by the UIDAI as millions of cards are issued. India launched the huge national identity scheme in 2010 in order to cut fraud and improve access to state benefits. It aims to cover 1 billion residents by 2016. But critics have pointed to privacy concerns as well as budgetary overruns.
Ashok Dalwai, deputy director general of UIDAI, claimed that the local centre and the operator who issued the card to Lord Hanuman would be identified and punished.
“This is a deliberate mischief on the part of the operator. He will be removed permanently and the enrolment agency will be penalised,” he told BBC News. “But I must also point out that such instances are few given the vast number of cards we process”.