India to use Aadhaar biometrics to eliminate middlemen from farmer payments

The government of India is planning to leverage Aadhaar biometrics in a reformed food procurement system to deliver benefits to farmers without middlemen siphoning off funds, the Economic Times reports. A pilot project in four districts of the Eastern state of Odisha will be launched for the autumn harvest.

A senior government official told the Times that a large number of complaints allege traders and middlemen have purchased grains from farmers and then resold them to the government program, which supports low-income households, pocketing the price difference.

“This will curtail this practice and farmers will get the promised prices. Like in any other government scheme, Aadhaar verification will be compulsory for selling produce to government. With this, only genuine farmers will get the benefit,” the unnamed official said, according to the Times.

Procurement centers across the country will receive a grant of Rs 100,000 (US$1,400) for computerization under the program, to purchase a laptop and a POS system with biometric thumbprint scanners linked to the central data center for Aadhaar verification.

The government official said the government buys roughly 80 million tonnes of wheat and rice under the procurement program each year, benefiting 100 million farmers. Subsidized grains are distributed to more than 810 million people from 500,000 ration shops.

The use of Aadhaar for state benefits was recently approved by India’s Cabinet, as the biometric identification program and the laws underpinning it evolve.

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