An ill-advised move to make Aadhaar-based punching system in govt offices

An ill-advised move to make Aadhaar-based punching system in govt offices
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The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala has made Aadhaar-based attendance mandatory for all government offices in the state. The biometric punching system linked to SPARK software system is to be implemented within six months as ordered by the General Administration Department (GAD) of Kerala this month.

The machine and software to conduct this process will be provided by the UIDAI approved National Informatics Centre. The offices are required to obtain the biometric machines from the electronic corporation Keltron or buy it themselves from the Government e-marketplace (GeM) to record the fingerprints. To operate the system, Keltron will also be employing trainers from each district.

The GAD stated that this system of attendance is to be introduced owing to the dearth of efficient management of attendance, output and systematic allotment of salaries to improve the efficiency and public delivery quality of the state government.

New reports suggest that this system shall also be used for salary payment of all the government officials making it mandatory for them to submit their Aadhaar card for authentication.

This effectively violates the sub-section (3) under Section 4 of the Principal Act according to the Aadhaar Act Amendment made this year that clearly states that an Aadhaar number holder cannot be denied any service for refusing to undergo authentication.

Apart from the breach of this law, an order for the implementation of this system also implies a contradiction to the CPM's election manifesto for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. In the manifesto of the party, it has called out the scrapping of Aadhaar and other biometrics for all social welfare measures. In addition to that, members of the party at various instances have condemned the Congress-led UPA government for the introduction of Aadhaar indicating a negation of this order by the GAD.

Assuming that the government departments in Kerala shall be exempted from paying the e-KYC fees of Rs 20 along with a Rs 0.5 fee for every authentication done twice every day being a government entity, there are several other factors to be considered before this system is rolled out.

Biometric systems used by government school teachers in Delhi has been facing several technical issues with the system since its inception in September, 2018. As cited in a report in a leading national daily, many school teachers have made complaints for being marked absent despite having done the biometric process claiming the machine to be faulty.

A similar situation has been noted in the case of ration shops using biometrics. Due to failure of the machine in recognising the fingerprints, beneficiaries were denied the supply of goods resulting in starvation among them. The situation had become aggravated to such an extent that in one particular case in Rajasthan it led to the demise of a beneficiary.

Apart from these complaints, the business organisations and government departments that have been using an Aadhaar-based attendance system have reported several other problems such as delay in working hours, compromise of database and leaks.

At a time when concerns are being raised about Aadhaar in almost every system it has been implemented in, bringing a biometric based procedure for both attendance and salary management do not seem an ideal solution to counter the flaws of the government departments and offices.

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