Bihar to provide biometric e-shakti cards to all its people

PATNA: Bihar government has decided to provide e-Shakti biometric card to each of its 10 crore citizens. The department of rural development is working on this project to fulfil the desire of chief minister Nitish Kumar.

Minister of rural development Nitish Mishra said an empowered committee held a meeting on Wednesday under development commissioner K C Saha and decided to go for a common survey of people for both the e-Shakti and Unique Identification (UID) cards. “After cabinet approval, tenders will be floated to launch the project across the state,” Mishra told TOI on Thursday.

The minister said the project would cost somewhere between Rs 750 to Rs 1,000 crore and will take a minimum of two years to complete. “The e-Shakti cards will be as good as UID ones. This multipurpose card will not only be an identity card but various schemes and services will also be linked to it,” said Mishra. The card will be prepared on the basis of the 2011 census.

Bihar’s dream project, e-Shakti, was launched by CM Nitish Kumar in February 2009 as an evidence of his government’s resolve to take ‘sushasan’ to the rural masses. The scheme impressed all including the Planning Commission, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and UIDAI head Nandan Nilekani. The project was termed as the precursor to UID’s ‘Aadhar’. Bihar’s ‘e-Shakti’ was chosen by the UIDAI as an example for ‘Aadhar’ in the country.

However, the scheme hit a roadblock for reasons best known to bureaucracy. For the past six months, no headway was made in the project. Mishra said, “The project has been delayed as work on it was stalled. The problem was that there was no clarity in developing the ownership when it was decided to integrate ‘Aadhar’ with ‘e-Shakti’ in the state.”

Sources said all progress on ‘e-Shakti’ came to a standstill in anticipation of a unified model for data collection that would cater to the requirements of both the projects. Incidentally, rural development department is steering both of these initiatives.

Mishra said now this issue has been resolved and a common survey for both projects has been decided. He said the ‘e-Shakti’ vendor, Smaarftech Technologies, had been awarded tender for making 2.5 crore biometric cards. In the fresh bid, the present vendor will have the first right of refusal, he added. For making 10 crore cards, about nine more agencies would be involved to collect biometric and demographic data, the minister said.

A spokesman of Smaarftech, stressing the need to revisit the scope and mandate for integrating the two projects, said while efforts to integrate UIDAI’s ‘Aadhar’ and ‘e-Shakti’ might have some ground, they do not have any relevance beyond data collection exercise. “It must be ensured that there are no undue fallouts of this integration for any of ‘e-Shakti’ process other than data collection,” he said.

The agency, which claims to have collected records of about 40 lakh residents of four districts, lamented the inordinate delays, saying it has already dented the project’s continuity. As a matter of fact, sources said, the ‘e-Shakti’ provided foundation for the concept of UID. CM Nitish Kumar at the NDC meeting in February last had commented, “Bihar’s e-Shakti project has been a front-runner to UID, and the UID must leverage the start made by e-Shakti.”

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