India and Pakistan use national biometric systems to secure cash relief distribution

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The Indian government’s Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) welfare program has released more than INRs 280 billion (roughly US$3.66 billion) in COVID-19 financial relief to 300 million people with biometrics and digital payment mechanisms like the Aadhaar enabled payment system (AePS), according to The Hindu Business Line.

The payment delivery was enabled by a new “digital pipeline” linking Jan Dhan accounts to holders’ mobile numbers and Aaadhaar credentials, the Finance Ministry says.

According to the report, women received Rs 500 ($6.55) each, and 97 percent of beneficiaries have been covered. Farmers have received the first batch in a payment which will total Rs 2,000 ($26.20), and the National Assistance Program is also distributing Rs 1,000 each to more than 28 million senior citizens, widows, and disabled people. State governments have released funds to an additional 21.6 million workers.

In at least some cases, postal workers have brought payment services with biometric authentication to the doorsteps of recipients.

Pakistan leverages NADRA

Pakistan’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash program meanwhile has distributed PKRs 16.58 billion ($99.6 million) from 17,000 biometric distribution points, Geo.tv reports, out of an intended Rs 144 billion ($864.9 million) marked for disbursement among 12 million families whose livelihood has been halted or reduced to near zero.

The distribution points are available across all provinces, and perform biometric verification through the NADRA national biometric system, the Associated Press of Pakistan reports.

Families of daily wage earners are eligible for cash relief of PKRs 12,000 ($72.07).

Social distancing measures at cash distribution points have been set up in coordination with provincial governments. Biometrically enabled payment points at Habib Bank in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, Bank al Falah in Khyber Pakhtunkwha, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir have multiple cash counters open with security, crowd management and hand-washing facilities in place.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan has also said that facial identification can be used alongside biometric verification in order to ease the burden caused by technical difficulties, Pakistan Today writes.

Some 40 operators of biometric devices for identity verification have been arrested for skimming benefits from the recipients whose payments they processed.

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