The much-lauded biometric ration card system is believed to be fool proof and expected to bring the public distribution system (PDS) in step with the digital era. However, ironically, the feedback from the ground indicates that it is rejecting the poor and the impoverished it was intended to benefit.
The biometric authentication system installed at the PDS outlets fails to establish the identity of many genuine beneficiaries, mostly workers, as their daily grind in the agricultural fields, construction sites or as domestic help have eroded the lines on their thumb resulting in distorted impressions.
‘Match not found’
The ridges and the patterns that are unique to each individual cannot be detected by the scanner and the screen repeatedly blinks a message stating “match not found”.
The Hindu, and Maj. Gen (retd.) Sudhir Vombatkere, a member of the National Alliance for People’s Movement and a critic of the biometric identification system, visited a few ration shops here and found this to be the case. Mysore is one of the few districts where the biometric ration card system has been introduced. The system is being gradually expanded across the State. On the condition of anonymity, a PDS shop licensee admitted that there were many cases of genuinely needy people being denied their rightful quota due to this technical glitch. N. Manjunath, Secretary of the Mysore PDS Dealers Association, said that the case was similar with women who roll beedis and those engaged in the agarbathi industry.
A case in point is that of Chikkathayamma from Kumbarkoppal who is a domestic help.
The scanner could not authenticate her biometric details. At another PDS shop in the same locality, Puttamma, a senior citizen in her late 70s, faced a similar predicament.
The PDS shop owners in both the cases said that there are not less than 20 such cases in most ration shops and it is either the senior citizens or those working in construction sites who are the worst affected.
Vivek Cariappa, an organic farmer in Sargur, H.D. Kote, confirmed that such instances were rampant in rural areas.
A PDS licensee said that higher officials had been briefed about it and they had directed that the quota be released at the end of the month after the other card holders drew their entitlements.
Devaiah, Assistant Director, said that they have written to the government drawing its attention to the problem. “But the rate of rejection was low and such people were being allowed to draw their quota of ration,” he added.
Matter of right
But Mr. Vombatkere said that if the beneficiary has to depend on the munificence of the officials to get their quota and not as their right, then the purpose of introducing the biometric system is defeated.
Mr. Cariappa said that the government policy was conducive to technology but technology should be conducive to ground reality.