HardshipA tribal woman returning disappointed from a PDS centre in a hamlet in Paderu .By ArrangementArranged

Scope for the middlemen has increased, says IIT professor Reetika Khera

In Bandaveedhi village in Paderu in Visakhapatnam agency, 400 residents had gone without the basic food items from the public distribution system (PDS) in April, as the officer concerned had a marriage at home and had no time to switch on the biometric machine that would record the finger prints of the beneficiaries. In Kasimkota, Padma, 70, was sent back on Wednesday after she trekked about 3 km in scorching heat to reach the centre, as her iris did not match and was told to come another day or get herself re-enrolled.

Practical difficulties

These were the practical difficulties that the adivasis and the people in rural Andhra Pradesh had been facing over the linkage, said Reetika Khera, Associate Professor from the department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT-Delhi. As per the Supreme Court’s directive linking Aadhaar for any government scheme was not mandatory, but the government machinery in all the States had been insisting on it leading to problems at least for 10 to 20% beneficiaries, and they fell in the most vulnerable segment, she opined, after a survey conducted across many States, including AP.

“In many cases, beneficiaries are sent back due to lack of connectivity or faulty machines or machines refusing to recognise the bio-metrics. And what happens if the beneficiary is old and disabled. It is not an easy task to come a second or a third time in rural or tribal areas and go back disappointed without the supplies,” she added.

Muscleman’s share

In AP, the PDS system closes by 15th of every month. If one can return by the 15th with the re-enrolment or completing other formalities, consumers can get the rations. Otherwise, they lose out as there is no carry forward system as present in Tamil Nadu.

Comparing AP and Jharkhand, Dr. Reetika said, “In Jharkhand the muscleman of the PDS depot or the local strongman will take a share of your ration even if you have a bio-metric embedded Aadhaar card. They were taking their share when the ration card was in paper format and they continue to take now when it is in the shape of Aadhaar card. So the argument that corruption has been rooted out with Aadhaar does not really hold water.”

Moreover, with the Aadhaar linkage, the scope for the middlemen has increased. “Aadhaar was supposed to remove middlemen. But today we have a middleman for enrolment, another for re-enrolment, another for taking out photocopies of documents and another for getting the documents authenticated,” added Dr. Reetika.