eKYC – Deploying a Biometrics System to Combat Hunger and Malnutrition

The Indian “Targeted Public Distribution System” (TPDS) is the most extensive food distribution system in the world. Approximately 800 million citizens frequent so-called Fair Price Shops across the country in order to acquire favorably priced, state-subsidized food grain which includes wheat and rice. Around 54 million people use the Fair Price Shops in the state of Madhya Pradesh alone but over time, duplicate entries managed to find their way into the shop’s system. To make the matter worse, some of the goods have also been distributed to imposters that registered using false identities. The project “Food and Nutrition Security, Enhanced Resilience” (FaNS) supports the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection in Madhya Pradesh in solving this problem that is interfering with a fair food distribution: The state is piloting a solution that introduces an innovative electronic “know your customer” (eKYC) process to all of the 25.000 Fair Price Shops in Madhya Pradesh. In the past this process was manual and slow but the new technology in the form of fingerprint scanners enables biometrically unique as well as fast and secure identification of a person at Fair Price Shops. Furthermore, by merging the data, the new eKYC system makes it possible to detect duplicate entries. The eKYC solution thereby contributes to a fair distribution of a vital resource among the population.

Content Image

An effective system that benefits everybody

Experiences from the day-to-day at the Fair Price Shops illustrate how valuable the eKYC process that is available in Hindi and English has already become: “I find it extremely difficult to identify ghost and duplicate beneficiaries”, explains a government official.  

“Under normal circumstances, this is a very tedious process that requires door to door visits in order to physically verify the beneficiaries. This application automates the entire process of establishing the identity of beneficiaries. It will help me in finding out the ghost and duplicate beneficiaries in the system. I can do eKYC of all the beneficiaries which are taking subsidized food grains from an FPS. After performing the eKYC, I can look at the data collected and based on that I can delete the ghost beneficiaries from the system. Then I can add more eligible beneficiaries instead.” 

Every year, India spends $15.5 billion in the food sector. That figure represents almost one percent of the country’s gross domestic product but still close to one fifth of the population is suffering from malnutrition. The total of the state subsidized food is limited. Therefore, duplicate and ghost beneficiaries in the system of the Fair Price Shops lead to other citizens in need not having access to the program. However, the pilot project in Madhya Pradesh was such a striking success that the Indian Central Government now recommends implementing the eKYC process in every state. For the citizens of India this means that more people in need are going to have access to the supply of subsidized food in the future. Each deleted ghost entry and every identified duplicate in the system is going to allow for an additional verified person to join the program and acquire food grains at a discount. 

Sector: Food & Nutrition Security
Region: India
Technology: Automation of the Process of Beneficiary Identification
Project status: Pilot completed
Partner: Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection in the State of Madhya Pradesh (India)