Kerala became the first State in India to implement biometric identity cards for fishermen with the inauguration and distribution of the cards at a function here on Friday.

The project, fully funded by the Union government, has been implemented to ensure security along India’s vast coastline of around 7,000 km and protect those fishing near the international waters.

The card will act as a valid identity for land registration and applications for phone connections and passports.

Minister for Fisheries and Excise K. Babu inaugurated the programme by handing over the cards to select fishermen.

“The idea of a biometric card for fishermen was first suggested after the Mumbai attacks of 2008. There needs to be no apprehension that this card will affect the daily livelihood activities of the fishermen. In fact, this will make it easier,” L. Shankar, Deputy Commissioner in the Ministry of Agriculture, who has been instrumental in coordinating the implementation of the card, said.

The card will have an identity number, fingerprint, digital signature, and photograph with more personal details, including the address, stored in a chip. Coastal security agencies will be provided with a card reader to access this information.

Six categories

Though the initial plan was to provide the identity cards for deep sea fishermen alone, the current implementation will be in six categories, namely boat owner, traditional fisherman, vessel crew, migrant labour, casual worker, and ancillary worker.

As part of the project, a national marine fisheries database will also be set up, with information on all the fishermen in India.

The card will come in handy for fishermen to prove their identity in case the police or the Coast Guard take them into custody while fishing.

The Palakkad branch of Indian Telephones Industries Ltd. digitised the information collected from the fishermen, and designed the card. Information on a majority of the State’s 2,36,268 fishermen and 71,628 ancillary workers has been digitised.

Mr. Babu also distributed financial assistance to the fishermen under various schemes.

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