After two public ration dealers in Anantnag district recently tested positive for coronavirus, triggering public outcry, the government suspended mandatory biometric authentication of ration cardholders across Kashmir.
Director, Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs ( FCSCA), Bashir Ahmad Khan said the decision was taken after concerns that biometric authentication on e-POS machines at the time of drawing ration, exposes beneficiaries as well as the dealers to the risk of contracting the virus.
Khan said there are more than 3600 e-POS machines, catering to 11 lakh ration cardholders and 60 lakh beneficiaries across the Valley.
“The punching of fingerprints and biometric authentication in POS machines while drawing ration for the month of July and August 2020 is now not mandatory but only voluntary,” Khan said. However, Khan said biometric authentication “shall be compulsory from September, 2020 for all beneficiaries,”.
Director FCSCA said even though biometric authentication has been suspended but “e-POS machines will remain active in all the fair price shops incase any beneficiary from another state or Union Territory wishes to draw ration under One Nation One Ration Card scheme,”.
Earlier, biometric authentication/attendance in all government offices across Jammu and Kashmir was suspended in March owing to the pandemic but biometric authentication of ration card holders continued unabated despite concerns from the public.
The Electronic Public Distribution System (e-PDS) project of the central government was implemented with much fanfare between February and April, 2018 across Kashmir.
The Point of Sale (PoS) device used for maintaining digital records of foodgrain distribution at ration depots and fair price shops of FCSCA Department is completely Internet based. “Now that there will be no biometric authentication, the concerned ration depot and Fair Price Shop heads have to take down the details of foodgrain distribution manually and then later on update it in the system. This is quite tedious but safety comes first,” said Khan.