Kerala and Delhi have stopped or limited their use of Aadhaar based biometrics that require multiple people to touch the same scanner.

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Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 15:05

The Telangana government will continue to use Aadhaar based biometric authentication for disbursing raions in the state, said Gangula Kamalakar, Telangana Civil Supplies Minister to TNM on Wednesday. The state will adopt safety measures for fair price shop dealers and social distancing measures for ration card holders visiting the shop, informed the minister.

Telangana government will begin disbursing 12 kg of rice for each white ration cardholder from Thursday. “We have decided to carry on with Aadhaar based biometric authentication for disbursing the 12 kg rations during the COVID-19 lockdown. We will be providing hand sanitisers to the ration shops, arrangements are being made,” said Kamalakar to TNM. The Telangana CM had on March 22 announced that one month's ration and 12 kg of rice will be given to each of the 87.59 lakh white ration card holders in the state.

The fair price shops will also have to follow social distancing measures. “The ration shop dealer and the customer must maintain 1-meter distance from each other at all times. The thumbs have to be used for biometrics and the hand sanitised before use and the scanner sanitised after each use. We will also set time slots for the public to visit the fair price shop to avoid overcrowding,” he added.

The Telangana government's decision to continue with the Aadhaar based biometric authentication comes at a time when Kerala and Delhi stopped or limited its use. The state has gone into a lockdown with a limited curfew in place as a precaution to contain the COVID-19 spread.

The Kerala government on March 12 decided to suspend biometric authentication for Public Distribution Service (PDS) across the state as a measure to contain COVID-19. Kerala adopted an OTP based authentication system instead – by entering the ration card number in the electronic-Point of Sales (e-PoS) authentication device used in the PDS shops. The Delhi government suspended Aadhaar based biometric authentication across all departments.

Speaking to TNM, P Veerasam, general secretary, Hyderabad Ration Shop Dealers Welfare Association, said that the shop owners are at risk of exposure but so far no instructions on safety precautions have been conveyed to the shop owners. 

“We are yet to receive instructions on what needs to be adopted at the fair price shops. The PDS authentication machines are touched by a lot of people,” pointed out the fair price shop dealer, “Sanitising the machine after each time someone uses it is a lot of work and not everyone is going to follow this. Already, there is a shortage of sanitisers. Where is the government going to procure it from? Wouldn't it be better to go back to the old system of ration passbooks?” he asked.

The Telangana government had moved away from ration passbooks and adopted the ePoS machines in 2016, powered by Aadhaar, as a means to stop PDS pilferage. The state was the first state in the country to complete 100% seeding of Aadhaar with PDS beneficiaries with ration cards.

The Telangana government apart from the rations has promised Rs 1,500 to be given to each family as financial assistance for buying essential items. “For this, over Rs 2,417 crore will be sanctioned by the state government," said KCR. The steps were adopted to prevent the labourers in the state from going hungry, the CM added.

Telangana state is presently under lockdown with a curfew in place between evening 7 pm to next day morning at 6 am as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of CVOID-19. The state has recorded 39 cases with one patient recovered.