Letter to the Editor: Biometrics misunderstood - causes death by starvation

News by Hitoshi Kokumai

Indian woman dies of starvation because of failures in system for biometric authentication for rations; her status is wrongly changed, unknown to victim who then receives reduced rations.

Dear Editor,

Are you or your readers aware of the sad deaths presumably brought by biometrics being misunderstood as reported in:

- Yet another Aadhaar-linked death? Denied rations for 4 months, Jharkhand  woman dies of hunger

(In brief, a woman called Lukhi Murmu died due to under-nutrition and exhaustion on January 23 in India's Jharkhand's Pakur district - the seventh such death - according to a  report by the Right to Food Campaign. It reports that Murmu had been denied rations since October because the Aadhaar-enabled point-of-sale machine at the local ration shop had failed to authenticate her biometrics.  Her ration card was wrongly switched from the Antyodaya category for the poorest of Below Poverty Line families to Priority category which cut her household's grain entitlement from 35 kg a month to just 20 kg.)

As repeatedly emphasised, 'False rejection' as against 'false acceptance' is inherent in biometrics.  If those officials had been correctly informed of it, they would have provided a fallback means against the false rejection. Then this kind of misery could have been avoided. We have to wonder how it was possible that these people were not advised of the issue of false rejection.

Best regards,

Hitoshi Kokumai, president, Mnemonic Security, Inc.


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