Recently under the directive of the Chief Minister, the Minister for Rural Development, Mr. Vaidyanath Mahto, the State Administration headed by Shri. A.K. Chaudhary, IAS, Chief Secretary and Department of Rural Development headed by Mr. Anup Mukherjee, IAS, Principal Secretary, embarked on a plan to root out corruption in its grass root poverty alleviation programme – National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP), a centrally sponsored scheme, for generating employment opportunities in rural districts, for creation of assets for sustainable living, and to alleviate poverty.
Mr. Anup Mukherjee wrote to me, after hearing about my work on “Biometric tracking of payments under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act” – “Just read about your exploits. Very exciting. It says, you are still waiting for the invitation to a village in India for implementing the project. If your solution does all that the article describes, it would be ideal for Bihar where people find ways to beat all systems. In fact we are also thinking of biometric muster rolls for our Rural Employment Guarantee schemes. Would you be ready to start a pilot project in Bihar”?
Bihar State Electronics Corporation Ltd., (BSEDC), invited Life Line to Business (LL2B) to give a demo of the biometric tracking to the officials of Rural Development Department. Based on the satisfactory demo, LL2B was recently asked to conduct a proof of concept for 100 NREGP beneficiaries in a rural block of Bihar, between June 5 and 8, 2007. Kris Dev and Ashwin V.G.of LL2B, went to Patna to do the field work, carrying their laptop, web cam, scanner, biometric device, etc.
The villages identified for the proof of concept were Kurkuri and Dhuparchak Musahari, the most under developed, in Gonpura Panchayat, Phulwarisharif Block of Patna district. The proof of concept was done among 170 men and women who are registered beneficiaries and have NREGP Cards with photographs. The registration and verification was done using different optical biometric devices.
The first device used was a Fingkey Hamster computer linked optical finger-size biometric device, for registering all the ten fingers and all his personal data such as name, father / mother / husband name, date of birth, address, etc., and taking a photograph of the beneficiary. The NREGP Cards with the photograph and details were scanned and attached to their details, for creating a permanent database.
The photograph would pop up in the computer monitor, every time any finger was placed on the biometric device, by entering their NREGP ID number, when a one to one match of any of the ten fingers takes place. Simultaneously, the attendance was marked as ‘in’ or ‘out’ depending on whether it was the first or second entry, and a permanent record was created in the database, for attendance tracking.
For the field work, it was desired that a mobile optical biometric device with its own battery power back up would be more suitable for daily attendance tracking. A stand alone hand held biometric device that can run with rechargeable batteries and store 1,500 finger prints was used for the registration and verification. The device also had the capability to register the NREGP ID and all the ten fingers (each 3 times for getting the best minutiae count).
Registration and verification of finger prints was 100% successful with both the devices. It is also possible to integrate finger print registration with a smart card which can store the finger prints and personal data for use any time any where. If the smart card is linked to the post office or bank account, then the payments can automatically credited into the post office or bank account and the multipurpose smart card can be used as a biometric debit card for making purchases or for drawing money from ATMs. The poor citizens can track by themselves, the attendance, the work done, and the payment received. No one would be able to cheat them, as the smart card is a permanent records of all transactions.
Bihar would have the unique distinction of becoming the first state in India to introduce biometric tracking for NREGP to root out corruption, empower the poor and alleviate stark poverty.