The first problem is not all beneficiaries have an Aadhaar number. Second, there are data entry errors in the details that have been linked to or seeded in the public distribution database, as a result of which several beneficiaries are not being recognised, making them ineligible for the subsidised grains.
Several of these problems reported earlier from Rajasthan’s implementation of Aadhaar authentication in ration system are now cropping up in Jharkhand as well.
Even those recognised as eligible by the system faced difficulties in accessing grains because of recurring glitches during the authentication process. Many of them said it worked only after repeated trips and several family members had to take turns to go to the ration shop to get their fingerprints verified.
Despite these glitches, no clear mechanism had been created to compensate beneficiaries for the loss of subsidised grains during these months.
“On August 26, we made a surprise visit to a ration shop at Hurhuri in Ratu block, which had a better than average record of point of sale transactions of 69.3% in July,” Dreze said in a press statement. He said the team of researchers visited a shop closest to the block headquarters, selecting it as an example of the best-case scenario under the new system. “Within minutes, we were surrounded by a small crowd of women and men who complained bitterly that they were unable to collect their rations, for a range of reasons, including lack of Aadhaar number, faulty seeding, biometrics failure, ‘zero quantity’ messages and other error messages shown on the devices,” Dreze said.
Roy said government is planning to implement the system in all 24 districts of Jharkhand by October. "In areas where there is no connectivity, we will devise an offline system of disbursing grains,” he said.
In Jharkhand, however, officials have not yet permitted this. Dreze said that with so many people being unable to collect their entitlement, allowing dealers to unofficially disburse grains by noting the details of beneficiaries in registers could exacerbate corruption.