Biometric smart card glitch encountered in Punjab

August 6, 2012 - 

Now that smart cards for pensioners have been rolled-out as part of India’s electronic benefit transfer scheme, reports on the three pilot districts have determined that three or four cases of unmatched thumbprints are encountered in every village.  This prompted the Government of Punjab to cancel old cards and re-issue new ones.

The pilot districts are: Ludhiana, Mansa and Mukstar.  The business correspondents from banks go to villages of each district to provide pension payments using mobile ATMs.  Pension payments are handed over only after identities of pensioners are verified using biometrics.

After encountering problems of unmatched thumbprints, Punjabi Deputy Commissioner Rahul Tewari, in his letter dated August 7, 2012, asked the social security department to review its biometric system.

Tewari wrote: “It could be as with age (pensioners who are 80 to 90 years old), their fingers become fragile.  When they press their thumb on the biometric machine, it does not accept it.”

According to the Unique Identification Authority of India, which issued Aadhaar cards to Indian citizens based on biometrics, problem with fingerprints from the aged can occur.  And the case is not just limited on age factor.  “Fingerprints can also change depending on the occupation of a person or after cuts and abrasions.  The chances of biometrics not matching are higher in a large database,” said New Delhi UIDAI Deputy Director Anil Khachi.

However, the Haryana State Crime Record Bureau argues otherwise.  They have gone on record to say the problem could be technical.  For the Bureau, how biometric data is captured is crucial.  If handled improperly or operated by non-technical people, it could pose problems.  For example, not exerting the right pressure for fingerprints during the capture stage could leave bad impressions, which will not match later.

Laik Ram Dabas, Director of Haryana State Crime Record Bureau said: “Though cuts, abrasions can affect them temporarily, the same pattern of lines emerges on the fingers once the skin renews.”

Should the Punjabi government’s re-issue new smart cards on the spot in cases of unmatched fingerprints? 

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.