Bageshree S.

Addition to citizens’ database

Bangalore: It will no longer do to just give photographic evidence of identity to get a ration card.

Every card holder has to subject him/herself to biometric identification as well, which involves giving the left thumb impression as proof of identity.

The photographs and biometric details will be added to the State-wide citizen database of all families seeking ration cards, which has already been created by Comat Technologies for the Karnataka Department of Food and Civil Supplies.

In the first phase, the mammoth database was created by digitising inputs from the State-wide survey of existing card holders as well as fresh applicants, after scanning about one crore documents. The fingerprint and photo identification will be verified a second time while issuing cards to the heads of the families.

Process begins

The process of taking photographs and biometric data started two days ago in Ward Number 77 of Bangalore Central range.

It will be taken up in other wards as and when verification of applications by food inspectors gets done. It had begun a month ago in 33 taluks of the State and the process has already been completed in Sulya and Bilagi taluks.

Misgivings

The system of biometric identification had come in for criticism by rights activists when it was made mandatory for housing in Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). They had said that this identification process was intrusive and expressed fears about the possibility of such an extensive database being misused since we do not yet have a law that protects information. Many activists had even suggested that other identification mechanisms, such as voter identity card and ration card, could instead be used.

The argument takes a new turn with biometric identification being made mandatory for even ration cards.

However, P.N. Sreenivasachari, Commissioner of the Department of Food and Civil Supplies, argued that photographic and biometric evidence of identity is an added security feature that will “enhance accountability and transparency” and “weed out the ineligible and include the eligible”. This measure gains special significance in the light of the fact that Karnataka has been trying to reduce the number of Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holders, since the number is far higher than the limit set by the Centre.

Mr. Sreenivasachari said that the database will be “used only by Government departments”. Nagina Sultana of Comet Technologies added that there is a system in place to ensure that access to it is restricted only to designated officials, whose biometrics will also be recorded.