Identity Project

Six months after Rajasthan introduced it, only 45% beneficiaries used Aadhaar at ration shops

Biometric machines failed to authenticate about 10%-15% of the drought-hit state’s one crore ration beneficiaries. But consumers have no recourse to redress.

Is Aadhaar, India's biometric-based identity number for residents, helping people access social schemes in a more convenient and transparent manner?

The evidence from Rajasthan suggests otherwise.

Six months after Rajasthan started using Aadhaar to authenticate beneficiaries seeking rations from its Public Distribution System, state officials say biometric authentication does not work for 10%-15% of the beneficiaries, most of whom do manual work on farms and construction sites.

From December till May, of a total of over 98 lakh ration beneficiaries, only 44.4 lakh, or 45%, could get their rations after being verified by handheld biometrics-reading machines, shows Rajasthan government data accessed by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, a grassroots group.

Activists point out that while crops have failed because of a drought in the state, ration beneficiaries have to make repeated trips to ration shops each month and ultimately have to rely on the manual override feature to get the foodgrains they are entitled to.

Authentication failure

“The government claimed in the Supreme Court that Aadhaar will make welfare delivery faster and remove corruption,” said Nikhil Dey, an activist with Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. “But Department of Information Technology and Communication figures shows that Aadhaar's untested biometric technology is not working well. In fact, it is adding to the hardship faced by people already facing hunger and starvation in drought-affected villages.”

Dey added: “We request the state government to make this data public so there can be an honest assessment of it.”

Dey was speaking at a public hearing on the “Right to Food and drought conditions” in Jaipur on Wednesday. He said that the state government needed to create grievance redressal mechanisms at the village and block levels because at present, beneficiaries do not know whom to approach when their biometric verification through Aadhaar did not work.

In April, Scroll.in reported how there was unrest at ration shops in villages in Ajmer, and near the state capital Jaipur. Beneficiaries faced recurring problems in accessing their ration entitlements under the new Aadhaar-based system. Moreover, there was no mechanism to compensate them for the months in which they were unable to get their foodgrain entitlements because of technological glitches, or other problems in the Aadhaar architecture.

Network problems

In December 2015, Rajasthan became the second state after Andhra Pradesh to distribute rations in all districts using Aadhaar’s biometric authentication. Under the new system, a ration beneficiary must place a finger on a machine, which uses the internet to match the individual’s fingerprints against data stored on the centralised Aadhaar database. Once the beneficiary’s identity is confirmed, the ration shop owner hands over the rations at the prescribed rate.

At the public hearing, several people spoke about how they were denied their monthly entitlements of foodgrains under the new system, and did not have any recourse to redress.

Hemraj Sahariya, in his twenties, had worked as a bonded labourer on the farm of a Sikh landowner in Baran district in southern Rajasthan till four years ago. After the previous government redistributed land and rehabilitated his family, Sahariya, who belongs to a particularly vulnerable tribe, started getting 35 kg of subsidised wheat a month under the National Food Security Act. But since April, after the biometrics-based distribution was introduced in Baran district, several Sahariya families like Hemraj's have not been able to get their complete food entitlements.

“In Bhanwargarh, Khandela, Bakanpura and several other panchayats where Sahariyas were rehabilitated, Aadhaar identification does not work at all for 20 to 30 people in each village,” said Sahariya. “In some cases, when we put our fingers, the machine reads out 5 kg, 10 kg, or 15 kg as our entitlement. But we are entitled to 35 kg as per the government norms.”

Gyarsi Bai Sahariya, in her fifties, said that crops had failed in previous years, and several families were facing distress in Shahbad and Kishanganj blocks, where 41 Sahariya tribals had died due to starvation in 2001, triggering a Public Interest Litigation for the Right to Food.

Devli Bai, who traveled from Gaiya village in Udaipur, said that the biometrics machine did not recognise her fingerprints even once. “I cannot get ration from the machine even after I wash my hands three times with soap,” she said. “In my village, if 50 people queue up for rations in the morning, only 10 are able to get grains by the afternoon.”

Shanti Bai, a social activist working in Transport Nagar basti in Jaipur, said that the machine failed to authenticate over a hundred people in the slum, either because their fingerprints did not match, or because their ration card and Aadhaar data had not been linked.

Iris machines

Hansraj Yadav, who is additional director, Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, the government agency that issues the Aadhaar numbers and controls the database, estimated that fingerprints authentication was not working for over one-tenth of the state's total beneficiaries.

“We have recorded that fingerprints do not match for 10% to 15% ration beneficiaries,” said Yadav, explaining that this was because of errors while capturing fingerprints, as well as changes in fingerprints through cuts, abrasion etc.

He added that in Andhra Pradesh, which also delivers rations after verification via the Aadhaar system, authentication did not work for 12% of those entitled to rations.

An official from the department of information technology and communication, who is supervising the electronic Public Distribution System, said that only 45% of beneficiaries in the state could get their rations using handheld biometrics-reading machines. “We rolled out the use of Aadhaar in three phases beginning with seven districts in November,” he said. “The system was implemented in all districts only by April.”

The official added: “We expect this figure to improve in the next few months and are educating panchayat functionaries on how to correctly put fingers on the machine, to wash hands before use, and to try and stick to using the mobile number registered in Aadhaar databases so that a one-time password may be sent for authentication in case fingerprints do not work.”

Yadav of UIDAI said that learning from the Andhra Pradesh experience, the state was planning to install iris scanners “so that if fingerprints do not match, iris scans can be used to authenticate beneficiaries.”

The Rajasthan government has already purchased iris scanners for 1,000 of the state's 25,000 ration shops as a pilot project.

In districts like Baran and Rajsamand, where ration shop dealers had complained of connectivity problems, the government had provided additional high gain antennas to attach to the point of sale devices, said the official from the department of information technology and communication.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

Watch Billions Now

2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

Watch Westworld Now

3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

Watch The Night Of Now

5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

Watch American Horror Story Now

6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

Watch Empire Now

7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

Watch Modern Family Now

8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

Watch The Deuce Now

9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.