Does away with middlemen; ten States keen to replicate model

Our Bureau

Hyderabad, Feb. 25 The implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) through biometric smart cards in Andhra Pradesh has attracted nationwide attention, with many States planning to adopt a similar method.

Financial Information Network and Operations Ltd (FINO), a Mumbai-based technology solutions provider, is presently implementing NREGS in five districts of Andhra Pradesh by paying wages through biometric smart cards.

“The hassle-free mode of payment sans middlemen has become a hit with the unskilled manual labourers. Encouraged by the feedback, at least 10 other States, including Orissa, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, are showing interest in adopting similar methods,” Mr Rishi Gupta, Chief Financial Officer and President (Sales), FINO, told Business Line over phone from Mumbai.

Implementation

After a successful pilot programme in eight mandals of Warangal and Karimnagar districts, the payment of pension and National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme wages are now being paid through smart cards in 259 villages — 93 in Karimnagar, 17 in Medak, 53 in Chittoor, 55 in East Godavari and 41 in Mahaboobnagar.

“The main advantage of the method is lack of corruption due to complete transparency,” Mr Gupta said.

The transactions using smart cards are recorded in the standalone computers at every Point of Transaction (PoT) connected to the server at the regional point, which will again be networked to the central server.

“So even in remote areas, details of transactions at PoT can be fed into the main server. We are also working on an option of using mobile phones for updating the server,” he added.

Challenges

FINO is using battery-operated devices to overcome electricity challenges in rural areas and biometric authentication to ensure access to services by illiterate customers. After identification of a person (who is eligible for NREGS) by the Government and other authorities, he/she would be issued a personalised smart card with a photograph and name in Telugu. A unique identification number would also be assigned for a beneficiary.

In view of the benefits, the State Government is also planning to replicate the ‘smart card model’ to some other schemes as well, Mr Gupta said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 26, 2008)
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