Caste input: Govt stays Aadhaar-ration card linkage

Karnataka has temporarily suspended Aadhaar-based biometric authentication of ration card-holding family members, and with that the ongoing effort to weed out ineligible persons and plug leaks in the public distribution system. 

It was in 2016 that Aadhaar-enabled biometric machines were deployed at all 20,778 fair price shops to authenticate beneficiaries, most of those below poverty line (BPL), for release of rations. 

The government has deleted 7.89 lakh ration cards following Aadhaar linkage, which has helped plug leakage worth over Rs 580 crore, according to the Department of Food and Civil Supplies. 

The department had asked every member of a ration card holding family to get e-KYC, or Aadhaar linkage, done as part of the sanitisation of the beneficiary list. This is required under the National Food Security Act, according to Food and Civil Supplies Commissioner T H M Kumar. 

The department had set a July 31 deadline for the e-KYC.  

“Under the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan and Tribal Sub-Plan, all departments are required to collect data on the number of SC/ST beneficiaries. There is no caste data in ration cards. So, we asked the card holders to submit the SC/ST certificates of all their family members alongside the e-KYC process,” Kumar said.

This led to people queuing up outside citizen services centres to apply for the certificates. And this coincided with the registration for the PM-
KISAN scheme and led to some chaos. So, we had to put the
e-KYC process on hold,” Kumar explained. 

Apparently, authorities argued that there was no need to collect SC/ST data from ration card holders as there was no differential pricing based on caste under the public distribution system. 

The department is now considering porting caste data from the Revenue department into the ration card database so as to spare the beneficiaries the trouble of submitting SC/ST certificates. 

“The only thing that has been put on hold,” Kumar clarified, “is the requirement of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication of every member in a family. We haven’t stopped supplying rations.”

A decision on resuming the Aadhaar authentication will be taken once a minister is appointed for Food and Civil Supplies. 

Karnataka has 1.44 crore ration cards covering a population of 4.90 crore. The government supplies 2.95 lakh tonnes rice and 12,500 tonnes dal (togari) under the public distribution system spending Rs 364.85 crore every month. This includes the Anna Bhagya scheme under which seven kg of rice is distributed free to every member of a BPL (priority household) family.

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