The Story of My Experiments with Linking PAN and AADHAAR

July 5, 2017
“No nation has ever taxed itself into prosperity.”
― Rush Limbaugh
Like everyone else, I too used to be prompted in the past to link my PAN and Aadhaar while e-filing my Income Tax returns. After entering the required data and clicking the ‘Link Aadhaar’ button, a message would appear telling me that the linking had failed. I simply ignored it since the system did not stop me from proceeding with e-filing.  

However, things have changed this year as the linking of PAN and Aadhaar has been made mandatory. Of course, there has been a deluge of reassuring messages coming from all and sundry saying that anyone could carry out the linking in just three easy steps without even logging into the system. If that was not enough to dispel my reservations  about the efficiency of the system, the feedback from the rest of my family settled it finally.  My wife, son and daughter-in-law had the linking done in just three simple steps as advertised.  ‘Mera Bharat Suchmuch Mahan Hai’, I reassured myself.

At the web portal  for linking, I entered my PAN and Aadhaar Numbers besides my name exactly as given in the Aadhaar card.  I checked the box for ‘I have only year of birth in Aadhaar Card’. The next item was the Captcha code. The code presented in the image was so gnarled and knotted that it was a tough job to decipher it right. I tried and failed a couple of times.  Then I sought the help of the audio option and eventually got it right. With my pulse racing, I clicked the button ‘Link Aadhaar’. My heart missed a beat.  Then a message box spread itself on my screen in a flash. It read, “Authentication failed.  The following could be the reason:
1. Name, Date of Birth or Gender in PAN database does not match with Aadhaar database. Try after change is updated with UIDAI.
To update your PAN details, please contact NSDL at
To update you Aadhaar card details please contact UIDAI at
2. Aadhaar Number you have entered does not exist in Aadhaar database. Please enter a valid Aadhaar Number.
I do not understand why the system could not be more specific. If the Aadhaar number was invalid, it could have easily verified and returned the message ‘Invalid Aadhaar Number’ and saved a lot of pain and uncertainty for the user. Assuming that the number was valid, the mismatch could be with name, gender or date of birth. (I admit it is quite possible that the fuzziness of the message has been deliberately incorporated for security reasons).
The matching of date of birth could not be verified since my Aadhaar Card carried only the year of birth. Gender matched. The villain was apparently my name. And my name was certainly not identical in the two records. The reason was that I had applied for PAN when I was outside my home State (Kerala) and for Aadhaar when I was in Kerala. How does it matter? Well. Let me clarify.
In most parts of the nation, people have their names divided into three parts – first name (individual’s name), middle name (father’s name) and surname (family name).  Thus, a father whose name is say, Kailash Meghnad Deshpande, will have his sons named say, Susheel Kailash Deshpande and Sunil Kailash Deshpande. And his daughter might be named Sushama Kailash Deshpande. (I am open to correction). Everyone in the family (also extended family) would be addressed as Mr Deshpande or Ms Deshpande outside their family. Of course, the idea is very logical. I wonder why ‘God’s own country’ did not think of implementing such a naming scheme. (This is apparently happening now).
I had lived most of my career life in the Northern States, thanks to my highly affectionate bosses who did everything in their capacity to ensure that I remained as far away from them for as long as possible. (Remember the saying, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’).  Thus, most of the time I lived amidst people who had their names standardized into three parts. They assumed that the rest of the nation followed the same naming pattern.
My name, Georgekutty, is a single word (in Kerala). So, whenever someone asked me my name, I replied ‘Georgekutty’. People accustomed to Surnames naturally thought that it was like ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ or ‘Virat Kohli’. (Of course, in those days it was ‘Sunil Gavaskar’ or ‘Sandeep Patil’ et al.) Just as Sachin is the first name, (‘Ramesh’ the middle name that is seldom heard) and Tendulkar the Surname, people assumed that ‘George’ was my first name and ‘Kutty’ my Surname. When relationships are formal, people do not address others by their first names. Just as Sandeep Patil is mentioned as ‘Patil’ and Sachin Tendulkar as Tendulkar, I became ‘Kutty’.  My name also carried the initial ‘V’, representing the name of my father.
The PAN application form had three fields for names – First Name, Middle Name and Surname. And Surname was mandatory.  I knew that ‘Kutty’ was certainly not my surname. Since I had no known Surname, I used the expanded form of my initial ‘V’ as Surname. Thus, I put my First, Middle and Surname as ‘George’, ‘Kutty’ and ‘Varghese’ respectively. Consequently,  my name appears as ‘GEORGE KUTTY VARGHESE’ in my PAN card. I had faced no problems with my name split into three parts in my PAN Card. Enter Aadhaar and the situation suddenly shifted. 
Incidentally, most people apparently take it as given that the idea of Unique Identification of citizens was the brainchild of the previous UPA government, which the NDA, then in opposition, vehemently opposed.  But the truth is that the compulsory registration of citizens for a National Identity Card was first mooted by the NDA government. Based on the recommendation of the committee set up in 1999 (post the ‘Kargil War’) to study the state of national security, a bill to (further) amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, was introduced in the Loksabha in 2003 by the then Deputy Prime Minister and BJP veteran L K Advaniji.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, inter alia, inserted Section 14A. It read, “14A. Issue of national identity cards.- (1) The Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue national identity card to him.
(2) The Central Government may maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens and for that purpose establish a National Registration Authority”.
The citizen’s unique id that the NDA government had conceived was essentially a security instrument although its scope has now been expanded to cover almost anything one could imagine. The NDA lost the next elections paving way for the decade long UPA rule. Suddenly the Unique Id scheme became a darling of the UPA regime and an evil fraud on the nation to the BJP that now occupied  the opposition benches.  In 2014 when the NDA returned to power, the political outlooks on Aadhaar got reversed once again!
Politics apart, I believe that Aadhaar is a very effective tool in plugging the leakages of government benefits by a DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) system implemented through the Unique ID platform. I also believe that it must be possible to use it as an instrument to combat black money and benami deals. Above all, Aadhaar could be a potent tool for improving national security. Of course, there are concerns about the invasion into citizen’s privacy and the safety of the captured data.  Maybe, some compromises on individual privacy in the larger national interest might be in order.   
Returning to the story, in Kerala where I enrolled for Aaddhar, the authorities did not demand a surname or asked me whether ‘George’ and ‘kutty’ together formed a single name. The data was successfully processed. And in due course, I received my Aadhaar card, which carried my name as ‘V Georgekutty’.  I knew that this did not match with the name given in my PAN. Since all the elements of my name were in both, I did not think it mattered much. Besides, my prophetic skills were not honed enough to make a prediction that a mandatory linking of both these cards was around the corner!  
The government has since amended the Income Tax Act 1961 by inserting Section 139AA that, inter alia, reads:
 (1) Every person who is eligible to obtain Aadhaar number shall, on or after the 1st day of July, 2017, quote Aadhaar number—
(i)      in the application form for allotment of permanent account number;
(ii)     in the return of income:
The amendment also says, “Provided that in case of failure to intimate the Aadhaar number, the permanent account number allotted to the person shall be deemed to be invalid and the other provisions of this Act shall apply, as if the person had not applied for allotment of permanent account number.” 
Whatever be the language of the amendment, the demand is for the linking of PAN and Aaddhaar. And the PAN-Aadhaar linking thus turned a life and death affair for the citizens. Although the D-day was quite close, I did not feel much unease about the failure of my ‘operation link PAN-AADHAAR’ since the ‘Authentication Failed’ message also carried two solid and comforting remedial options. I had the choice to update either the Aadhaar or the PAN record without leaving my chair. However, I very soon realized that such data update was easy said than done.
The Aadhaar system does its primary authentication through a One Time Password (OTP) sent to the registered email id and mobile number.  I was not sure I had registered these.  I accessed the link and tried to get an OTP. When I failed to receive it after several attempts, I assumed that my current mobile number and email id were not registered with the Aadhaar system.  I, therefore, decided to try the PAN update option. (I later discovered that the OTP failed probably because of the inertia of an overloaded Aadhaar system.)
I had to make two changes to my name in the PAN to make it match with my Aadhaar name. One was to reduce my Surname to my initial. The second was to remove the space between ‘GEORGE’ and ‘KUTTY’  and make it ‘GEORGEKUTTY’. If I could achieve these, it would match with the name in my Aadhaar card. And I trusted the system to facilitate a hassle free update.  
Surname is a mandatory field in the PAN system. I entered just ‘V’ in the Surname field. The system objected by saying, ‘Surname cannot be a single character’. Then, I came to know that the linking might go through if I could remove the space intervening ‘GEORGE’ and ‘KUTTY’ even without changing the Surname. To my delight, I found that Middle name was not a mandatory field. So, I entered my Surname as it is, my first name as GOERGEKUTTY and left the Middle name field blank. I was exhilarated when the system quietly accepted it.
I had the option to electronically authenticate the PAN update request, or to take a printout and send it by post to the authorities. Obviously, I chose the option for online authentication. I filled up the other required fields and proceeded to the page for making payment of the update fee (Rs.116.20). The system offered the payment options of Internet Banking and Debit/Credit cards. I opted for Internet banking and chose State Bank of India. The screen underwent a momentary shiver and displayed an error which said something like ‘State Bank of India is temporarily unacceptable, choose another means of payment’. The process did not wait for me to choose an alternative option. It simply quit. Whatever I had done thus far was lost. 
As someone who had dealt with large scale Relational Database Management Systems for over two decades as an administrator and a solution designer, I should have learnt the art of being patient with IT Systems. But my basic instinct for impatience seems to have returned with a vengeance after I quit all that some five years ago.  I clenched my fist and banged on my desk. I kicked the chair; I growled; I gnashed my teeth. Then I was struck to sobriety by the thoughts of the mysterious terrors that awaited me if I missed the deadline. I took a deep breath and went back to square one.

This time I used the option ‘Credit Card’.  The payment was successful. I heaved a sigh of relief and thought that at last I was getting somewhere. That was just a flicker of light before darkness struck. The screen hung for a while and then spit out a message that read something like this, ‘Since the name given does not match with the name in the Aadhaar database, electronic authentication is impossible. Use the option to send a print out by post. The amount paid would be credited back to your account in the next seven days.’

The update had become necessary exactly because the names in PAN and Aadhaar had not matched. What kind of rationale is it to say that electronic authentication is impossible since the names do not match? And how ‘user-friendly’ are these systems for ordinary folks with just basic computer literacy? One only hopes that all these are difficulties deliberately incorporated to ensure system security.   Even if I wished to take a printout and send it to the authorities by snail mail, I had to restart from scratch. I was too angry to go through this merry-go-round. So, I decided to try my luck once again with the option of Aadhaar update.
After a bit of cat and mouse game, I discovered that my current email id and mobile number are indeed registered with the Aadhaar system. This time the OTP arrived and I got into the process of updating my name. My attempt this time was to change the name in the Aadhaar record to match my PAN record.
In the Aadhaar system, names have to be entered both in English and in mother tongue (Malayalam for me). It has a tool that transliterates the name typed in English into the chosen Indian language. Remember, transliterations could end up with nightmarish results. For instance, the other day I came across the image of an Aadhaar Card (already issued officially) in which the name ‘Vikraman’ has been transliterated as ‘VIKAARAMAAN’ (വികാരമാന്‍/ विकारमान). In comparison, my name is much harder to write in Malayalam, leave alone for a tool to transliterate correctly. The kind of terrible jumble that the transliteration process comes up with would drive you insane. I eventually created a passable transliterated version of my name, although I am still apprehensive about what would appear in my updated Aadhaar Card, if and when it arrives.   
The process was successfully finished. The system issued an acknowledgement with an Update Request Number (URN). I was told that I could find out the status of the request using the URN on the website concerned.  I also received an email message confirming the URN. The acknowledgement carried my name in English as updated. A few tiny squares stared at me with their blank eyes from the field for ‘Name in Local Language’. It sent a chill down my spine! Remember ‘VIKAARAMAAN’… 
After twelve days, I visited the website concerned to find out the status of my update request. I entered the URN. The system said that the URN I entered was invalid. I tried several times with and without the couple of forward slashes forming part of the URN and with and without the leading zeros in the URN.  The system invariably returned the message ‘Invalid URN’. The date was 20 Jun 2017. I had just ten more days to do the linking or face some disaster, the dimensions of which were not yet fully known.
I immediately wrote an email message briefly explaining my problem to Two days later, I received a response, the operative part of which said,  “We have received your query regarding status of your Aadhaar Updation : To complete your request please provide us Enrollment number (Provided to you at the time of enrollment of Aadhaar), Date & Time and Update Request number (URN) provided at the time of updation…”  I was overjoyed to see the promptness of the system and the politeness of the message. Although I had already supplied the information that UIDAI now sought, I forthwith replied resubmitting it.
The next day, I received a reply to my second email. Lo and behold! This second message said exactly what the first message had said except for a new ‘Case Id’. It asked me to supply the same set of information. Had I responded to this second message, the machine would have sent me a verbatim reproduction of the previous messages with a different ‘Case Id’. I do not fault the system. It is humanly impossible to arrange adequate work force to deal with the thousands of queries the PAN-Aadhaar linking ultimatum might be generating each day.
Let me conclude. To this moment, I do not know what happened to my update request. Also, I have no idea what kind of terrors awaits me for ‘failing’ to do the linking by the date stipulated by the government.  Wikipedia says that when it comes to suicides, India has the sixth highest ranking in the world, for women and 22nd highest for men. That was as per 2012 WHO data. Our ranking might have since gone up by a few notches, considering all those farmer suicides. People commit suicide for various reasons. However, Aadhaar has not been mentioned as a reason so far. The way things are proceeding, we might soon be hearing ‘Aadhaar Suicides’ too! The fact that Kerala has a rather high rate of suicide makes me shudder…

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