The State government’s ambitious project for an Aadhaar validation-based public distribution system (PDS) would have to address critical technical issues before it could be rolled out.
The system put to trial, which the civil supplies department would like to call a pre-pilot phase, in six ration shops in Thiruvananthapuram more than a month back has thrown up technical challenges, which took the department through a steep learning curve.
“Based on the experience we are likely to launch web-based concept on a pilot phase by the end of December. Considering the administrative feasibility and the ground work already done, the pilot phase will also be run in Thiruvananthapuram after which it would be rolled in rest of the State,” S. Jagannathan, Civil Supplies Commissioner, told The Hindu.
Communication between the Aadhaar central server and the point-of-sale machines for Aadhaar validation was among the major technical issues encountered during the pre-pilot phase. The Aadhaar server communicates only with the server of the sole Aadhaar validation agency for each State, which in this case is the Kerala State IT Mission, recognized by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
The Civil Supplies Department was initially under the impression that Aadhaar validation was possible directly from the point-of-sale biometric device. But the protocol involved in such a scenario presented a threat of compromising the security of Aadhaar validation.
“Therefore the need is to establish a protocol whereby the application server hosted by the department communicates with the IT Mission server, which in turn communicates with the Aadhaar server and get the Aadhaar validation through the point-of-sale machine,” the official said.
Another hurdle is the Supreme Court’s verdict that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory for welfare benefits. So the question is how to move forward in the event a PDS beneficiary declines to enroll for Aadhaar. In such case there should a clear policy on what else can be used instead of Aadhaar .
Uninterrupted connectivity at the level of ration shops is another critical factor for ensuring Aadhaar validation-based PDS. At present, the print of all ten fingers is read using the machine and the clearest finger print is used for Aadhaar validation. The process, besides being a bit time-consuming, calls for uninterrupted connectivity so that the process is completed and validation is made possible.
There needs to be an alternate mechanism because beneficiaries cannot be asked to return later citing connectivity problems. With the National Food Security Act identifying only two types of beneficiaries — priority and excluded — the existing PDS beneficiaries classified into various categories would have to be restructured.