The Food Civil Supplies and Consumers Affairs (FCSCA) department is risking the lives of consumers by making biometric finger touch compulsory to get ration from the department stores.
The practice continues amid the spike in the COVID-19 cases and death reported from J&K on a daily basis which has left the consumers anxious about the safety of their health.
While the department continues with the practice, the consumers at majority of the areas deny receiving the ration through biometric finger touch.
"Given the surge in COVID-19 positive cases, the department should release the ration without making biometric finger touch compulsory. We cannot put our lives and our family members at risk," said Abid, a resident of Baramulla.
Notably, the department is releasing ration through biometric finger press in areas of various districts which have been declared as micro containment zones by the concerned district administration. The areas have been declared micro containment zones for witnessing surge in COVID-19 cases.
"On Thursday morning consumers received ration as per biometric finger touch. Later two consumers tested positive for COVID-19 leaving all the villagers in shock," said a consumer from the Kreeri area of Baramulla.
Notably, the FCSCA department is distributing ration on the basis of biometric finger press at a time when all the government departments and other private offices have put on hold the biometric attendance of the employees in view of surge in COVID-19 cases.
"Making biometric finger touch mandatory for ration goes in contradiction to avoiding physical touch to prevent spread of this deadly virus. These ration stores will soon become super spreaders if the biometric system is not put on hold for some time," said Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Kokothal village of Baramulla district.
Notably, the Panchas and Sarpanchas had already made their representation to the authorities with an appeal to make biometric finger press non-mandatory for getting ration during these months. But the plea has been turned down by the government saying the system was introduced to maintain transparency in ration distribution.
"It is true that biometric finger press was to maintain transparency but given the prevailing situation, the government should do away with the system to avoid physical touch. Dozens of consumers touching the same machine has a risk factor attached to it," a lower rung official of the FCSCA department said.
"From past few days scores of consumers in an area denied to receive the ration through biometric finger press after few locals tested positive for COVID-19. This becomes problematic for dealers as well," the official said.
The official said the introduction of biometric systems assured authentication of the consumers receiving ration but the department should rely on dealer's authentication for ration distribution.
"This mechanism can be used for one or two months till the situation improves here. Later the department can shift back to a biometric system to distribute ration. There will be no fraud committed in one or two months," the official said.
Advisor to J&K Lieutenant Governor (LG) Farooq Ahmad Khan when contacted said the department was taking all precautions to ensure that no consumer gets infected due the Aadhaar based finger press.
"If anyone has tested positive, it is not because of the Aadhaar based finger press," he said when asked if the Aadhaar based finger press can spread the infection.
The Advisor further said some dealers with vested interests were trying to build a narrative to make Aadhaar based finger press non-mandatory as they were unable to siphon off the ration.
"All they (consumers) have to do is to wear a mask and biometric thumb presses will not infect them," Farooq Khan said.