The Gujarat Police on Friday arrested two fair price shop owners after busting a racket in Surat that involved diverting subsidised food items by using an illegal software that used stolen biometric data. The scam came to light after a few beneficiaries found that items were issued in their names, but they had not used the quota allotted to them, the Hindustan Times reported.
“The accused were using a software that contained ration card numbers, Aadhaar card numbers and biometric thumb impressions of PDS [Public Distribution System] beneficiaries,” R Sarvaiya, assistant commissioner of police (detection of crime branch) told The Times of India. “They used the details to create fake records of food grain sale. We are investigating from where the accused purchased the software, who developed it and who supplied the data.”
The software was available for Rs 15,000, the police told The Times of India, adding that they suspect a bigger racket in stolen biometric information is at play.
Surat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma suspects that agencies that were given government contracts to collect biometric data to link the information with ration card had saved the data and later sold it. He also asserted that the data was not stolen from Aadhaar cards and was not linked with the database of the Unique Identification Authority of India, according to The Times of India.
The police are investigating how the culprits accessed government data and how the unauthorised software worked. They are also trying to ascertain the amount of wheat, sugar and rice – meant for beneficiaries of the Annapurna Yojana scheme launched in April 2016 – was diverted, the Hindustan Times reported.
The Gujarat government had launched the scheme under the National Food Security Act, 2013. The fair price shops opened under the initiative were renamed as Pandit Deendayal Grahak Bhandar and were computerised to ensure that subsidised food items reached the actual beneficiaries.