There was a television ad some time back where a village leader played by Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan cutely decrees that feuding villagers would be known by their mobile numbers rather than names denoting caste or community.

It’s an idea that no longer seems far-fetched.

This week, the finance minister allocated 1200 million rupees to  the Unique Identification Authority of India, headed by former Infosys chief Nandan Nilekani.

The project provides a unique identity number, something like the U.S. social security number, to India’s billion-plus citizens.

It involves setting up a database with the identification details of citizens.

“It also uses an advanced technology like biometrics on a scale which has not been used anywhere in the world,” said Nilekani.

The biometric details will make identification foolproof.

Multi-purpose National Identity Cards have already been issued to a million citizens under a test scheme in some districts.