A new survey of the Aadhaar-based Biometric Authentication (ABBA) system, introduced in all Public Distribution Systems (PDS) in Hyderabad between February and March 2016, has found major “complexities and problems” with the use of the Aadhaar card for obtaining essential commodities from city’s shops.
Carried out among 80 households, consisting of 284 individuals in November, the survey, published in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), India’s premier social science journal, has said that of the 80 households, only 50 were “successful” and received full entitlements at correct prices.
Further, according to the survey, “53 of 80 (66%) surveyed households reported glitches with one or more of the five technological components of the system”, adding, even before the introduction of ABBA, of the 80 households, 71 (89%) “reported receiving full entitlements at correct prices.”
The report, which has been prepared by three scholars – Anmol Somanchi, a postgraduate student of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; Srujana Bej, a student of law at the Nalsar University, Hyderabad; and Mrityunjay Pandey, an MPhil at the School of Economics, University of Hyderabad – says, “Though Aadhaar is technically not an eligibility criterion, ABBA is systematically leading to exclusion at two levels.”
First, says the report, “The lack of an Aadhaar number automatically disqualifies eligible individuals from being listed in the household ration card. Among surveyed households, 12% (34 out of 284) of eligible individuals’ names were missing from the ration cards, leading to a loss for the concerned household as PDS entitlements are defined in per capita terms (in Telangana, each beneficiary is entitled to 6 kg of grains per month).”
“While there could be other reasons for missing names, 10 out of 34 reported the lack of an Aadhaar card as the reason and we suspect that seven children’s names were missing due to Aadhaar”, the report states.
“More than one-fifth (21%) of sample households reported Aadhaar seeding issues”, the report states, adding, “Respondents had submitted all Aadhaar documents to their respective circle offices, but they found that their names were missing from the National Food Security Act (NFSA) list.”
Secondly, the report states, “Almost 40% of the surveyed households reported persistent fingerprint authentication errors, that only specific fingers worked, or that only certain household member’s fingerprints worked.”
Pointing out that internet is the essential infrastructure on which the ABBA rests, the report says, despite Hyderabad’s decent network facilities, many households reported problems with internet connectivity. “This implies delays in grain disbursal and having to make more than one visit to the PDS outlet. Internet connectivity has frustrated not just beneficiaries but also dealers”, it adds.
“The dealer at Yapral complained of connectivity issues every day of the week after 8 pm (a time when beneficiaries could come after work). The dealer at Osman Gunj revealed having to face internet issues for an hour or two every day. Both dealers expressed displeasure over the resultant slowing down of sales”, the report says.
The report also finds that in several instances persons were still in possession of their old ration cards. “Despite completing the application procedure and receiving official communication of approval via a paper slip or SMS, they had not received their new ration card and were not getting rations”, the report says.