The government says better ID will mean aid is delivered more fairly
The Indian government has begun moves to provide a Unique Identification (UID) number to its citizens, the central government has announced.
It has appointed Infosys Technologies co-chairman Nandan Nilekani as head of a new body to determine how the scheme will be implemented.
The project will mean that all Indian adults will have to carry what is in effect an identity card.
It was a key commitment in the election manifesto of the Congress party.
In its manifesto, Congress said it may be possible to provide every Indian adult with a card after the publication of the national population register in 2011.
The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says that the scheme - which is being implemented by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) - is being done primarily to provide better security in the country, especially in the wake of recent militant attacks.
Our correspondent says that another aim of the multi-million dollar scheme is to ensure that food handouts and employment opportunities for poorer people are more fair. It is also hoped that the card will help tackle identity theft and fraud.
Mr Nilekani will be the chairman of UIDAI and will have a place in the Indian cabinet. He has resigned his membership of Infosys Board of Directors following his appointment.
Experts say the scheme is likely to take several years to implement.