In order to mitigate the large scale diversion happening in APL-SS (State Subsidy) category, Government of Kerala conducted a pre pilot study on select 6 ARD’s to introduce different components of end to end computerization, especially Aadhaar based authentication at ARD and linked direct cash benefits transfer scheme.
The pre-pilot aimed at improving the distribution and utilisation of the subsidy for APL-SS beneficiaries through the implementation of the following mechanisms at 6 ARDs:
- Installation of E-PoS for better accountability and tracking of transactions.
- Aadhaar based authentication using the e-PoS
- Connection to Centralised database for retrieving entitlements
- Mitigate the large scale diversion happening in APL-SS category through transfer of subsidies to the bank account
- Introduction of additional incentives and base payment revenue models to incentivise the ARD owners
The Civil Supplies department has launched the Pre-Pilot Project for the implementation of the scheme for direct cash transfer of subsidy for APL(SS) in selected 6 ARDs in Thiruvananthapuram District. The Commissionerate of Civil Supplies submitted Draft Project Report for implementation of Direct transfer of cash subsidy for APL(SS) at an amount of Rs.24,72,500 for which sanction was accorded by Government vide G.O. (Rt) No.259/13/F&CSD dated 31/07/2013. Among the Six ARDs, the department has incorporated six different incentive linked remuneration models for the implementation of the APL (SS) pre pilot project. The pilot project was necessitated to ensure the standardization of protocols for biometric credential verification, authentication of transaction and real time capture by e-PoS software on to the central transaction. FPS automation cover the following:
- a) Beneficiary Authentication – the objective is to ensure that TPDS commodities are issued to the intended eligible beneficiary only. This authentication can be done by using suitable technology such as AADHAR or Smart Card, which is feasible at the FPS level.
- b) Commodity Issuance – In order to ensure that right quantity is issued to the intended beneficiaries, commodity issuance transactions may need to be automated. This would bring transparency and also help the department in recording and reporting the stock position at an FPS in an automated manner server hosted digital database, generation of electronic advice list for electronic fund transfer through payment gateway to AADHAR linked bank accounts and simultaneous issuance of SMS alerts on mobile. On successful completion of the pilot and standardization of design and process flow the project can be upscaled for the entire state.
As part of the implementation process data sheets were collected from the Ration Card holders under the six ARDs identified. The AADHAAR data has been seeded with the Ration Card Database through a data entry process and e-PoS machines has been placed free of cost in the selected ARDs by the vendors for lab trial and finalisation of all protocols such as AADHAR validation, billing and uploading of transaction details to central server and other related matters. The billing process of the commodities sold through the selected ARDs was being done thorough the e-PoS machines. A Central Server and a control room was installed in the Commissionerate of Civil Supplies and the e-PoS interfaces with the standard application software which in turn generates all communication scripts to the Central server and vice-versa, separately, the web based application residing on this server as the Transparency portal and the authentication process was routed through the server to the IT Mission AUA server further onwards to the Central UIDIA server for the authentication of the biometric credentials. Renovation works including civil and electrical works was been completed in the selected ARDs by the Hindustan Prefab Limited. A joint team from the National Informatics Centre and the Food and civil Supplies Department and the technical representative from the e-PoS vendors trained the ARD Licensee and ARD salesman/ representative for operation of the e-PoS. Two e-pos vendors participated in the pre-pilot for trying out Aadhaar enabled authentication.
Schematic diagram of the APL-SS pre-pilot in Kerala
The pre-pilot experience came up with valuable inputs that could guide the End-to End computerization in Kerala. Among other things, the pilot showed the need to further under-take lab trials before launching the experiment with involvement of the beneficiaries. It was also recognized that there is a dire need to further customize the e-pos solutions after taking into account issues such as beneficiary and stakeholder convenience, total time required for a single transaction, connectivity and load sharing during peak hours etc. It was felt that the introduction of PoS device should not lead to a denial of service/inconvenience for the beneficiary. Some of the common factors that cause problem are:
- Poor performance of the PoS software
- Complicated/cluttered PoS GUI
- Frequent loss of data connectivity and/or electricity
- Lack of proper training to ARD owners
- Inadequate IEC and awareness campaign for the beneficiaries
In absence of technically robust and socially efficient e-pos solution, successful deployment of Aadhaar based authentication at ARDs was found to be difficult. One of the challenges in getting the desired e-pos solution is presence of limited vendors with limited capabilities in terms of alignment to business need, H/W S/W support etc. Further there is also a need to conduct pilots with adequate quantity of PoS machines to ensure that all possible aspects of solutions are tested in the field and their performance is monitored. It was also realized during the review of pre-pilot that presence of multiple vendors during a pilot could provide the advantage of range of choices to choose from and instils competition among vendors.