In its Strategy Paper in August 2009, UIDAI made an important but counter-intuitive decision that it would issue only numbers and not cards. Many were surprised. Identities are always issued in the form of ID cards, isn’t it? People had never heard of an identity number. What does it even mean? Even those who understood the concept of an online identity system criticized the decision, claiming that a card is the more appropriate form for India because poor connectivity would render an online system inoperable.
When people asked me to explain the online ID, I used to provide them an analogy of body (sharir) and soul (atman). The Aadhaar number is like the soul, indestructible and permanent (ajar, amar), as the Gita describes it.