The government on Monday launched a dedicated website allowing the public the access to download 3,000 maps prepared by the Survey General of India (SGI) but made Aadhaar mandatory for the purpose.
Using Aadhaar number, a person can download three maps every day from the portal (http://soinakshe.uk.gov.in/) launched on Monday.
The SGI completes 250 years on Monday. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology, said the motto behind making Aadhaar mandatory for using this service was to make it available "only to Indians".
Aadhaar number is a proof of identity and not that of citizenship. The initiative comes days after Aadhaar was made mandatory for filing Income Tax Returns. The government is also mulling to make Aadhaar mandatory for booking air tickets.
"We wanted to make passport mandatory for this service, but then not all people have passports, so we have made Aadhaar mandatory for people," said Swarna Subba Rao, Surveyor General of India.
The SGI has the mandate of making maps and cartographic documents for the country. It has a wide archive of maps. The institute first published a 'Map of Hindoostan' in 1783, depicting the subcontinent region comprising India, Pakistan, Burma (now Myanmar), Bangladesh, and parts of Afghanistan.
The SGI has a rich collection of over 5,000 maps. While it made 3,000 maps open to public for download, 1700 will be available for downloading soon. The remaining maps are awaiting clearance. Under the National Map Policy 2005, it had become necessary to make non-defence maps accessible for public.
"Earlier, even government departments had to pay some amount to get the maps from Survey General of India. We have relaxed that norm now," Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, said.
Harsh Vardhan said the SGI is also awaiting clearance from Nepal to measure the height of Mt. Everest post 2015 earthquake. Interestingly, Everest has been named after former Surveyor General of India Col Sir George Everest.
The measurement of the world's highest peak has been made by the SGI. "We want to make it a scientific collaboration between India and Nepal to remeasure Everest," Vardhan said.
(Feature image source: Reuters)