Andrew Carnegie, the iron man of the American steel industry once said, ” I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.” If we read this quote seriously, then it perfectly defines the challenges India faces in its Public Distribution System (PDS), especially in the remote areas of the country where a majority is the victim of poverty, illiteracy and injustice. Poor farmers in the rural India are still deprived of the agricultural subsidies, whereas a few rich and shrewd farmers are unfairly availing these subsidies due to various loopholes in the distribution mechanism.
Agricultural subsidies that are meant to encourage productivity and reduce disparity have been criticized outrageously because these lack in fair and uniform distribution. Fertilizer is the main item which is beyond the approach of needy farmers because there are people who procure it in abundance using various fake identities and then sell it at higher prices in the parallel market. To validate the authentic farmers and penalizing the culprits is a difficult task for public machinery. Although the government is keen on curbing the illegal distribution of fertilizer, but the technology in use is not effective enough to evaluate that whether the subsidy is going in the right hands or not. It is believed that about one-third of the subsidy is availed by the fake customers using the manipulated identity proofs. A recent study highlights that lack of monitoring in the fertilizer subsidy is causing adverse impact on the overall agricultural productivity and the financial condition of small and marginal farmers is deteriorating day by day.
At one end, public authorities are willing to ensure substantial and timely availability of fertilizers to the poor farmers, but, on the other end there is a great dearth of authentic data, advance technology and the availability of trained employees to assess and control the distribution of fertilizer in the rural areas of world’s largest democracy.
Now, if the government is willing to extend the agricultural subsidy only to the authentic farmers, then it must take appropriate measures to safeguard the interest of small and marginal farmers.
A smart use of the advanced technology can resolve many problems and challenges associated with the distribution of subsidized fertilizer. Till date the Government has not adopted any foolproof authentication process to fix the problems under the Public Distribution System. But, it doesn’t mean that there is no solution for such problems, in fact IT has revolutionized the security and validation process around the globe and with the advent of the latest facial recognition technology customer’s authentication is no more a terrible task. Facial Biometrics using a standard smart phone combines with a unique risk transaction algorithm and integrates with user needs. This unbreakable architecture works on mobile signals and its success rate is up to 95percent.
The multifactor authentication is an as easy to use a cost-effective biometrics mechanism based on image recognition. Before giving the stipulated amount of fertilizer to an individual farmer at the subsidized price, the public servant will click the photo of the farmer and verify it with the picture stored in the database. The data can be transferred to a central database through a network connection. Facial Biometrics can be carried out with Aadhar database to ensure that there is no leakage in the system.
The biggest advantage of the technology is that it cannot be spoofed as the system uses a unique gesture recognition technology. Right now, the installation of necessary hardware and software cost in between 10,000-15,000 INR per fairprice shop, though this cost is likely to come down as the volume increases. It would make the entire process much more transparent on account of regular flow of information. Moreover, what it will certainly do is to empower the beneficiaries who really deserve agricultural subsidies and side by side, the face biometrics technology will help to paralyses the activities of black marketers who are illegally availing the subsidies in the garb of genuine farmers.