The Gujarat Government is mulling over linking public distribution system with Aadhaar cards or to introduce one-time password system to bar coded ration cards. However, the much ambitious project to curb corruption has been facing some technical glitches following reports of non-matching of biometrics data that blocks beneficiaries from procuring ration at very crucial times.
Of total 1.2 crore ration cards issued in Gujarat, the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs has 1.07 crore bar coded cards, with biometric details, along with multiple identity proofs including voter ID card and LPG connection number.
“However, we have been receiving complaints that thumb prints, at times when consumers visits gram panchayats to get coupons to be produced at fair price shop, often fail to match even in genuine cases. There are many technical reasons for that — the most common being wear and tear or changing texture of thumb skin,” said a top official from the department.
As beneficiary exchanges coupon with commodity at shop, the owner submits the same coupon back to the department to redeem his quota while completing the whole cycle of PDS modernisation. The whole system has helped eradicate many bogus ration cards. “So there have been complaints that genuine beneficiaries have to go without ration at times,” he added.
The Supreme Court in one of its judgments in 2011 hailed the system as something to be emulated nation-wide, when the state governments across the country in the process to implement Food Security Act.
But the department is now mulling over on how to further strengthen the automated system. “One of the options is to link it with Aadhaar card. Or, like the net banking, we can go for one-time password every time, in cases where biometric data fails to match,” said an official.
The department officers maintained that from the very beginning, there was serious consideration of linking it with Aadhaar cards. But the idea was dropped and rather details of other identity cards, including voter ID cards and driving licence were fed in the bar coded card to make them foolproof.
The department also allows biometric details of more than one family members on the single card. So, in case one member is not available or data doesn’t match, the benefits can be availed using data of another member. However, not all issued cards have multiple records. Besides, the department can also add the multiple records, but then to maintain that data would be a huge task.
“For example, as of now, we are maintaining data of some 1 crore users. In case of multiple entries on the single card, it can touch 5 crore or even more, which is almost near to the total population of the state,” said a senior official.
As part of unique system, the related website of the department provides details on stock availability at fair price shop also on SMS. At any time of the day, the beneficiaries can get details of stock of particular commodity is available or not by an SMS.