Interview with S. Kuberan, Consultant, SERP
Duration: 00:29:31; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 37.288; Saturation: 0.065; Lightness: 0.411; Volume: 0.175; Cuts per Minute: 0.034; Words per Minute: 139.777
The Identity project emerged as a result of our dissatisfaction at the nature of the debate that was emerging on the area of digital governance in India.
Over the past three years we have conducted numerous field visits in seven Indian states.These visits include numerous video-conversations, some short and others very long, with a diverse number of those who were involved with this entire process of participating in the emergence of a digital ecosystem of governance. These are interviews with people being enrolled into the Aadhaar programme, with district-level Panchayat and other officials, with numerous State government bureaucrats, with private enrollment representatives, representatives of various governmental services, with operators and other members of this digital workforce. Conversations are often long, spontaneous and deliberately unstructured: and the focus is mainly on a vérité style using amateur video.
Some key issues that we shortlisted for detailed inquiry were issues of migrants, both domestic and across international borders, homelessness in cities, and the financially excluded. Each of these areas was discussed in considerable detail at major public consultations held in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore, in partnership with the CSDS, the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, and the Urban Research and Policy Programme Initiative of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. All videos of all presentations made at these events are also available here.
CSCS also has an extensive text archives of material on the field as a whole, available on http://eprints.cscsarchives.org
S. Kurberan, Consultant, Govt of AP, Smart Card, SERP (English)
Discusses the smart card system of payment for NREGS. He provides an overview of the process of payments followed for NREGS payments. Those who enrol for the job card is undertaken at the district level. These details are sent to the State Government, which then passes on the list to the Bank, which issues the smart card. The banks download the data, provided by the government in various formats like FTP. The problems that exist due to inability to read the biometrics of the old could be around 3% of the total beneficiaries.
INTERVIEWER: What’ the present situation with NREGA right now? What's happening?
Speaker: Do you want to look at the complete biometric payments or do you want to start with the initial data?
INTERVIEWER: In any case there's a card at the back of it or not?
Speaker: Some of them have not enrolled. We're looking at manual payments of those who haven't enrolled.
INTERVIEWER: Just give us a sense of the information architectures.
Speaker: Basically we have a database of NREGA. It is decentralised at the mandal. Whoever wants the job card, they will go to the mandal. They’ll get registered. There's a job card ID given and a worker code. It'll be a household code for a house and it'll be differentiated by the worker code. Against that, the demographic details like name, gender and other things are collected. We have the database which is the prime data, within which we build the entire Smartcard project. We give this data to the bank. The bank collects the data and then goes to the village with this data and enroll the beneficiaries.
INTERVIEWER: How is the data transferred to the bank?
Speaker: This is a data format. We give it in pen drive or through FTP.
INTERVIEWER: And that's a regular...?
Speaker: It's the regular personnel, beneficiaries, things like that. We also release the pay order, so it contains the manner of payment that can be used as data.
INTERVIEWER: So the sequence is this. Beneficiary, then Mandal, then behind that the FINO...
Speaker: FINO will come a little later. We have the initial demographic database. After that we give it to the bank, so that bank has a service provider...
INTERVIEWER: That is FINO.
Speaker: Yes, that is FINO. They will get the data and go to the village and enroll them.
INTERVIEWER: So, yesterday what we saw, the data which was there with these FINO guys is what they had given to the bank.
INTERVIEWER: One thing the Principal Secretary said, the connector as called it, which was actually the anchoring record, they’re trying to actually do or have already done PDS data as the anchoring record... has it happened, or is it not going to happen or will it happen?
Speaker: You're look at UID integration with...
INTERVIEWER: Not UID so much. In fact last time you said that NREGA and PDS data, there was some attempt to integrate the two.
Speaker: We are actually collecting the ration card number, as a field which is a connector between ration card and job card number.
INTERVIEWER: So it is happening...?
Speaker: Yes, it is. It is in the process of happening. We're doing a field level study to do that.
INTERVIEWER: So, the ration card will be the connector and then probably UID will come along and be the new connector.
Speaker: Presently what's going on is, we're strategising to put the ration card number into our database. So there could be a decision later on where we could directly connect Adhaar also, since it is foolproof. Then they might connect it to the jobcard and when it is connected, and then automatically you get the ration card number. That could be a decision in the future.
INTERVIEWER: What are these databases? Are these SQL databases? What's the nature of these...?
Speaker: We have Oracle...
INTERVIEWER: You use Oracle?
Speaker: There we use it. No, it is like even Access or whatever it is. What you have is a one line record with 15 fields, 15 columns. That will show the initial data for a bank. With that you have gender, name, father’s name, surname; everything in the individual record will be there. That will be taken, after that biometric will be collected.
INTERVIEWER: This database, in whatever platform it is, whether it's Access or Oracle; it could be in Excel also, right?
Speaker: We have it in Oracle basically.
INTERVIEWER: Is there some kind of database design that goes in, in terms of security, privacy...
Speaker: If you look at NREGA, it is a big database centre. We have an HTC range, state level data centre, which is very huge. It runs into some 50-60 TB. It is a big structure for running the entire programme. So, if you look at it, NREGA is completely digitised through IT.
INTERVIEWER: In Andhra Pradesh?
Speaker: Yes, In AP. A lot of money has been flowing.
INTERVIEWER: Who does the design?
Speaker: We have TCS ( TATA Consultancy Services) as the service provider.
INTERVIEWER: Can you access it from here? Whatever field you want?
Speaker: We don't have access, but it is possible.
INTERVIEWER: It’s not a query based thing?
Speaker: There are some solutions which are query based also. If I want to find out the beneficiary details, for a particular budget, I can do that also. We have a report which is public.
INTERVIEWER: And are there some firewalls? Can anyone access it?
Speaker: You can't edit it, it is a report publishing.
INTERVIEWER: But access is there for everyone? I'm just trying to understand what kind of security...
Speaker: You won't be able to enter into the system or our database. That will be a report published and moved into a particular place and then published for the report itself.
INTERVIEWER: Then the question of biometrics. Yesterday we happened to meet some people from FINO, and they did the whole demo for us, how they enroll. The biometric was captured and then it was sent. Settlement they called it. It is transferred from the POS to the phone which is then sent out at the end. What kind of file format or what specification is the biometric going in?
Speaker: Syndicated templates.
INTERVIEWER: How does that work?
Speaker: Template would be... see you have a biometric if you look at the...
INTERVIEWER: It is an image file?
Speaker: No, it is not. Biometric would be an image file, RAW image or JPG. It will have the lines and things like that and then it will get the points that will be absorbed and saved as templates. The machine has the capability to convert into templates.
INTERVIEWER: De-duplication at that level is being done at the banks?
Speaker: Not very well done. De-duplication, we’re also trying it out. It looks like a complex exercise. We'll have to put in a lot of effort.
INTERVIEWER: The other service that was being offered by the same people, through the same way, that is Axis bank FINO was pensions.
Speaker: Right. They are also... Everybody is doing it.
INTERVIEWER: So, pensions and NREGA, are they using similar platforms?
Speaker: Yes, similar platforms, same CSP section, the same machine is being used but the cards are different. When you actually look at the field level, it's the customers, whether it is Social Security Pension or NREGA, they're the two bank customers. That's the differentiation.
INTERVIEWER: Not everybody has a Smartcard for pensions and NREGA, is it?
Speaker: This is getting filled up.
INTERVIEWER: What is the predominant reason for the delay? Because in Kurnool, in that same district we have something like 70% who have Smart cards and others who don't have.
Speaker: Basically, look at it this way. This programme is being run for the past two and a half years. One and a half year back we were at around 2200 panchayats. We are presently at 19,000 panchayats. That scale up has happened. You have enrolled a set of people in a village, after that we convert the panchayat to a smart card. So we're allowing both manual and card payments. That's the initial push up to convert every village to smart card and then come and look at these procedures.
INTERVIEWER: Has the direct cash transfer structure happening in any place? In other words direct payment into the bank accounts of the beneficiary, that is not yet happened no?
Speaker: This is what it is. (Cash transfer)
INTERVIEWER: But this is not going straight to the account.
Speaker: It is going.
Interviewer 3: Except from there somebody physically takes the cash and makes the cash available through those machines.
Interviewer 2: But in Kurnool many said they were given cash in hand.
Speaker: They are given the cash in hand but the money is going through the account. You go to the cashier, your account is debited and he gives the cash n hand. That's what the CSP does. It's like cashier accessing your account and giving you the cash, similarly he (CSP) is doing it.
INTERVIEWER: That is FINO's job.
Interviewer2: One of their jobs.
INTERVIEWER: Actually this penetration of Smart card is not really, in some sense, your responsibility. It'll be the banks', right?
Speaker: It is a joint responsibility. It is in the benefit of the government, we're pushing it, so government responsibility also comes into it. I mean, we're transferring the responsibility to them. When we convert to smartcard, then you put in your cheques, then it becomes the responsibility of the bank completely. You can say that.
INTERVIEWER: How many such banks does NREGA work with right now? Axis bank...
Speaker: 11 banks.
INTERVIEWER: One of the issues, we talked to someone from SBI this morning; changing the subject slightly from technology. The thing is that, SBI particularly, for example, the other banks are also looking at this kind of deep penetration, and going across 1300 villages and so on and so forth, we were clearly sort of given to understand at least that the kind of banks that are opening no frills bank accounts without necessarily mounting government delivery mechanisms as against banks that could do so, there was a sea difference between those two. In that situation, there would be a lot of instances when no frills accounts are opened but they don't have any such attached...
Speaker: If you look at, I'll give you two cases related to that. One is that NREGA and social security pension, at least when you look at social security pension, you'll have credit and debit every month. So in the period of a year, you'll have 24 transactions totally in a year. Where as a normal no frills account even 6 transactions a year is accepted to be an active account. That is one thing.
Another thing is related to the RBI circular which has come. The present circular has come in a way, to integrate DPT into the financial inclusion. Both would be answering your question.
INTERVIEWER: When actually does the government credit the money with the bank? Like on a monthly basis by a certain date do you collect...?
Speaker: If you look at pension, it's on a monthly basis, if you look at NREGA, today some, tomorrow some, everyday it is going.
INTERVIEWER: Take for example, pensions, 70 lakh people get pensions, 70 lakh beneficiaries. So, 1st to 5th the pensions have to be paid. When is it actually credited?
Speaker: 26th it should be there.
INTERVIEWER: With the bank?
INTERVIEWER: So the bank actually keep the money for 4 days?
Speaker: 4th day they should start the payments. Ideally, the transaction should be over by the 4th day. Payments should be made to all the beneficiaries on the 4th day. So, the banks usually credit the accounts with the payment but we can't do that. dispersement is... Basically they need 2-3 days. It can be reduced also.
INTERVIEWER: So its 4 days of interest free money.
Speaker: 3 days. But look at your alternate models. You'd lose money.
INTERVIEWER: Banks also generate substantial income.
INTERVIEWER: So if Aadhaar is incorporated into this entire thing, requirement for Smartcard won't be there, no? Say the bank is adopting and using the Adhaar repository, all I need to do is go and tell the bank this is my number, this is my biometric, and will it verify and do a transaction for me? It won't need to have me give a card which has my details for it to verify...
Speaker: First thing is, would the biometric be shared with a particular bank and their business correspondent? That is the first question with respect to Aadhaar.
INTERVIEWER: No, they won't need to share the biometric, what they'll have to do is the bank or the business correspondent...
Speaker: TMT... The time lag would be the question then. How much time it takes for authentication. See if you go to the Adhaar server...
INTERVIEWER: That’s the point. That would be the concern across the country.
Speaker: Across the nation.
INTERVIEWER: I’m saying in terms of what the business correspondent would have to do is just make a call. Now he's making a call to a bank server when he's verifying the fingerprint...
Speaker: No, he doesn't call the bank server, he's doing it offline, right there.
INTERVIEWER: Yesterday we were told that some of these guys do... Even the SBI bank guy was telling us...
Interviewer 3: SBI says that all it's POS is online.
Speaker: Accounts are connected to the linked branch where the biometric is stored in the machine or in the card and without internet connectivity they would be doing the transaction offline. You insert the card, payment is done. So whenever there is connectivity, the payment instruction alone, like debit Rs.200 or 300, that alone will travel through GPRS to the particular linked branch of the server.
INTERVIEWER: Maybe it's happening in very rare cases. What they told us basically that while enrollment they take the fingerprint of the user and when the user comes to do any transaction whether it is to take money out of the account or deposit or whatever, they will take the fingerprint authentication and that will be authenticated against the fingerprint stored in their database.
Speaker: Yes, that's for Aadhaar.
INTERVIEWER: No, not for Aadhaar, for banking. SBI is doing it. That's what they told us. Am I right? Maybe it's happening very rarely.
Speaker: No, it is not happening at all. They are not verifying the biometric with the server. It is happening at TCS at Nellore that probably the only place I can say. Actually that's also not happening.
TCS Nellore is connecting it online but not verifying it through biometric server. They're just sending the data to the server. That's it.
INTERVIEWER: How come Nellore has a TCS?
Speaker: Nellore is allocated to TCS, as a service provider. It's one of our 8 service providers. Through online, which is the server, it would be only the data, which is 200 rupees which is being debited, that details alone will travel to the server. Not the biometric.
INTERVIEWER: So TCS is able to do biometric?
Speaker: No, only the data. Nobody is doing that.
INTERVIEWER: Because of connectivity issues or...?
Speaker: One is connectivity issue, another is the time taken.
INTERVIEWER: That’s what related to connectivity. More bandwidth means it takes...
Speaker: No, not that, if you look at biometric, we have to scan across the different biometric there. If you put a thumbprint in and want to verify, we have a thousand records there, it'll have to verify against the thousand records.
INTERVIEWER: First they key in the number, right?
Speaker: Yes, if they do that, then the time will reduce.
INTERVIEWER: It’ll be a basically 1:1 match.
Speaker: If you look at our central database, it would be like in a number of batches. So, it would have to go in a number of batches. That'll also be another thing to factor.
INTERVIEWER: In terms of duplication, NREGA, what is the extent of duplicate cards or duplicate entries? Is there an estimate? Government must have some sense of what's happening.
Speaker: I don't think so.
INTERVIEWER: No idea?
Speaker: I don't think so.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. Are all problems related to duplicate NREGA cards because of the inheritance of ration card data or are there new problems?
Speaker: Even in ration card, we have duplicates.
INTERVIEWER: NREGA is not given on the basis of ration card?
Speaker: Probably it has been verified and given...
Interviewer2: That have attached the connector.
Speaker: It might have been verified...
INTERVIEWER: Attaching the connector happens at the level of a Smartcard. I'm saying, originally when somebody gets an eligibility for NREGA, it is given to people who are poor, right?
Interviewer2: The way to identify you're poor or not is your ration card, right?
INTERVIEWER: Exactly, so in some way it inherits the...
Speaker: For NREGA, you need not be a BPL person. Anyone is eligible for...
INTERVIEWER: You need not have a ration card?
Speaker: You need not have it, for NREGA anyone can go presently. If you want to work, you can go.
INTERVIEWER: Anyone? Even if I am a school teacher or doctor, I can go?
Speaker: Anyone can go. It's hard labour, no. So, anybody can go.
INTERVIEWER: So, it has no connection at all with poverty?
Speaker: Earlier days, there was a connection. Probably they would have issued a job card with a BPL, a verification of ration card; I’m not sure about it. But they have not entered into the system. There are no connectors.
INTERVIEWER: Today the UID authority was telling us something about a State Resident Data Hub that has been started by the IT department. Who is involved in this and what does it do?
Speaker: I don't know about it, but I guess they would be collecting it and storing, something like that. Aggregation of data.
INTERVIEWER: What is very interesting is this whole interoperability question across the state because it is looking like there are a number of initiatives, even online, there's a lot of data that's on, then there's a land records kind of thing, then there are Arogyasri which of course goes back to the previous sort of structure, then there is your database, is there any possibility of these things being...
Speaker: We had some 10-12 meetings, which happened about integration. Some steps were taken for that. Maheshwaram was an example for that. It's one output where pension data is integrated with UID number and ration card number.
INTERVIEWER: This particular thing, the State Resident Data Hub is not something you're... or there is no evidence of that using NREGA data or something.
Speaker: If you look at UID, they want to capture the NREGA number also into that. They're doing it, but i'm not very sure.
INTERVIEWER: Supposing the principal secretary wants to access some data of say, somebody who is benefitted from housing who is also taking up NREGA and say MFI loans, can he do that?
Speaker: No. There are steps towards it. The POP strategy, you must be aware of that, poorest of poor for the Ac, that they're linking them. And they have done some link ups like that.
INTERVIEWER: Just starting? But as of now, he can't just simply say...
Speaker: Whatever beneficiaries who are captured under that probably he can do that, but he doesn't have any dashboard kind of stuff to arrive at it.
INTERVIEWER: Are there technical issues in making these databases searchable across the...
Speaker: For any integration, we need to go to the field.
INTERVIEWER: To the field?
Speaker: Yes. For any integration. If I want to integrate your ration card number with my NREGA, I have to visit the beneficiary and verify his number and type the detail, and then it comes. It involves that much manual work.
INTERVIEWER: Why does it have to be done manually? Is it because there is an assumption that the data could be wrong?
Speaker: Yes, exactly.
INTERVIEWER: If it is, let’s say data about books, in this library and that library, I search without physically doing to see whether the book is here or there, right?
Speaker: How would you integrate otherwise?
INTERVIEWER: That’s what I’m asking. Is the problem... Is it because the names, there could be spelling errors...
Speaker: That is one. Even when I’m looking at my pension data, I'm targeting a scheme at people older than 60 years. Even some 50 year olds will be 60 years there. Whereas in ration card database, they'll be less than their age. These are the challenges. These are targeted schemes which are making a database accordingly. These are not building up a database and accordingly target the scheme.
INTERVIEWER: You mean each entry would be skewed in favour of making you eligible for that scheme?
Speaker: This is what known to us. There could be a lot of mistakes which may be unknown to us.
INTERVIEWER: Will UID solve that problem?
Speaker: Hopefully. UID number identifies the resident. After that you have migration with each of the departments. If the UID is completed, as people have started, they'd want to integrate databases. So that department will get built in. So if rural department follows it, I’ll ask every Mandal to do this work. If I have the job card you have to integrate the UID number. Otherwise you're not there. Remaining job cards will be deleted. That is the way for it.
INTERVIEWER: AP government has given smart cards for NREGA, pensions and so on. But as of now they cannot access it from any other place other than where they were registered, isn't it? For example, pensions...
Speaker: It is not enabled, but it can be done. Since they have a card, that can be taken to other places also.
INTERVIEWER: Any particular reason, why it's not been enabled?
Speaker: There no need to be.
INTERVIEWER: Most of them continue to stay...
Speaker: In the same village.
INTERVIEWER: Or is it that they go back for the pensions only? Because there're a lot of people in Hyderabad who work as maids, go back for their pensions.
Speaker: There's a fewer number of people, so.
INTEVIEWER: The Micro ATM structure also is not really...
Speaker: Micro ATM structure doesn't have manpower. These are old people, there should be somebody to help them. Basically they can't insert the card and get it. Some help has to be there. Again you have to go for the cash (refill) which will need a lot of protection.
INTERVIEWER: How long have you been here?
Speaker: I've been here for 31 months.
INTERVIEWER: What are your own IT skill? Because you seem to know a lot about it?
Speaker: I'm basically a civil engineer.
INTERVIEWER: You have no personal...
Interviewer2: You're a civil engineer?
Speaker: Yes, then I went on to do rural management from IRMA.
INTERVIEWER:Is there in terms of skills for the technology of this kind, have you seen drastic changes since the time you've joined? How has the culture of technology changed?
Speaker: 31 months is very little to say.
INTERVIEWER: But in your experience?
Speaker: There have been changes. If I look at my staff at the district level who are co-ordinators, they come with little or no skill. They just completed their BA, they wouldn't have even touched a computer. That is the way they come in. they understand the technology, speak about it, identify the issue, those things are all happening. If you put them into the system and there's pressure, then it'll happen.
INTERVIEWER: Does it spawn other things? Like the time they spend in the virtual world, surfing, Facebook-ing, has all that become...
Speaker: Facebooking is a little far off for us. Out of 22 there are 2-3 who do Facebook. That would be there. You can’t stop it.
INTERVIEWER: Is that exciting to them...?
Speaker: If the guy is committed, then he would do his work and then do other things. He'd manage it at the end of the day. You work with it or not, you ensure the work is done.
INTERVIEWER: Is any of your data online? Your website would have a substantial part of the micro findings on whatever is happening in the programme?
Speaker: It won't have micro finding, but it will have data which could give you the micro finding information.
INTERVIEWER: You have the MIS?
Speaker: We have a number of reports in the website.
INTERVIEWER: Most of it serves with all the data on it.
Speaker: NREGA also we have a number of reports.
INTERVIEWER: They have an MIS structure that builds done to almost the village level.
Speaker: Panchayat level. In fact after Smartcard, we are collecting the data and the date of disbursement starting from the... We are not connected to the muster presently, we’re collecting from the pay order; we are capturing 4 crucial dates. Like date of pay order, they credit into individual accounts, they download in to the machine and date of dispersement. We are integrating with the muster also. That is why the daily compensation which you were talking about presently is being developed.
INTERVIEWER: What is the percentage of people whose biometrics cannot be read? In the village they were telling us, each month there are certain cases where they tried to put...
Speaker: 3-4% only.
INTERVIEWER: Has it been constantly like that or been much higher?
Speaker: There are reasons for (unclear) also. Since we're allowing manual payment, that is also one disadvantage, skipping the card on payment is an easy task. I can pay it manually, so it saves time. With that slight attempt, it would say biometric failure. That could rise to 7-8 %. I'm saying there are administrative issues. I verify the fingerprint just once and say it's not verifying, because I’m allowing manual payments.
INTERVIEWER: Manual payment means, they look at the card and give it to the person?
Speaker: We have aquaintance... there are papers, CSP has. Based on the papers, there would be fingerprints on the paper...
INTERVIEWER: He’s asking about job card, not Smart card.
Speaker: Job card it will be there.