India has been forced to delay the rollout of iris scanners at fair price shops throughout the country. The shops are run by the Department of Food and Civil Supplies (DFCS) as part of the Public Distribution System (PDS), and are set up to give impoverished citizens access to food and other essentials.
In the past, the PDS has relied on fingerprint recognition to verify the identities of beneficiaries. However, that program was suspended in response to COVID-19, since the use of a shared touchpoint increased the risk of spread. The DFCS later announced that it would be transitioning to a contactless iris recognition system, indicating that the new scanners would be in place by April of 2021.
Unfortunately, the agency has put those plans on hold after learning that its current Point-of-Sale (POS) machines are not compatible with iris scanners. The agency has decided to resume the use of fingerprint biometrics due to the lack of other options, and is once again using fingerprint scanners in 18 states.
According to Food and Civil Supplies Director Abid Hussain, biometric authentication is necessary to ensure that every citizen receives their fair share of the available resources, and to prevent leakages within the system. It also supports the rollout of the broader Aadhaar scheme. The agency had hoped that the iris scanners would reduce the number of complaints, with Hussain noting that the current fingerprint system has an error rate between five and seven percent. The iris scanners, on the other hand, have an anticipated error rate of less than one percent.
The DFCS is locked into its contract with its current POS vendor until April of 2022. The agency is now considering a Request for Proposals to make sure that its next batch of machines will offer support for iris recognition. The Indian government has previously used fingerprint and iris recognition to remotely register pensioners during the pandemic.
Source: The Tribune
January 13, 2021 – by Eric Weiss