Last month, through an amendment to the Prevention of Money Laundering Rules, the government made it mandatory for account holders to give their Aadhaar numbers to their banks before December 31. However, banks are actually being pushed to link all India’s 110 crore bank accounts with Aadhaar by August 31, according to a high-ranking government official familiar with the developments.

The official, who spoke to on condition of anonymity, said this is being done to ensure that every bank customer definitely has their account linked by December. After December 31, accounts that are not linked to Aadhaar will become temporarily inoperable until customers submit their 12-digit biometric-based unique identification numbers to the banks.

To ensure that no one is left out, the government has also asked banks to set up counters in bank branches to register people who do not still have an Aadhaar number.

“There are 110 crore bank accounts in total and we are asking banks to link all accounts by August 31,” the official said. “We want to finish this job as soon as possible. We are pushing the banks to do it early enough so that the residual numbers, if any, closer to the deadline are as low as possible.” contacted top officials at four private and public sector banks who declined to comment on the government’s push to advance the deadline. However, two co-operative bank managers confirmed that there is pressure from the government to finish linking as soon as possible.

The amended rules also say that those without an Aadhaar number can get themselves enrolled and furnish proof of enrollment into the Aadhaar system to their banks to keep their accounts running after December.

While the official did not provide any data on the progress made so far, he said that the linking process is in full swing in most banks as customers are being contacted to provide their Aadhaar numbers at the earliest.

Even before Aadhaar was made mandatory for bank account holders in June, customers have been complaining of banks pushing them to provide their Aadhaar numbers in anticipation of this push from the government. Some of the banks even made false claims that Aadhaar was mandatory for certain services.

Turning branches into enrollment centres

To speed up this process, the government has directed all scheduled banks to provide Aadhaar enrollment and update facilities to their customers.

“Scheduled Commercial Banks have major share of bank account holders who will need to authenticate their bank accounts with their Aadhaar numbers,” a gazette notification dated July 14 states. “Therefore, it is necessary to provide Aadhaar enrolment and update facilities in Scheduled Commercial Banks so that no undue hardship is caused to their customers owing to the aforesaid amendment of the PML Rules, 2005.”

The notification further adds that each bank must set up an Aadhaar enrollment facility in at least one out of every 10 of its branches by August 30. These branches must be selected to cover the maximum possible area.

“The Scheduled Commercial Bank shall notify to its customers, the general public, and UIDAI of the locations of branches where Aadhaar enrolment and update facilities will be provided by them,” the notification states. “The list of such branches shall be displayed on its websites.”

There are about 54,000 bank branches in India currently and banks will have to set up at least 5,400 Aadhaar enrollment centres inside their branches in order to comply with this notification.

At the same time, the banks may also allow customers of other banks to enroll for Aadhaar or update their existing unique identification numbers. Additionally, all banks must become registrars of UIDAI, the notification added.

A sub-committee under district magistrates will oversee the process, according to the official.