x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

High-tech failure

The answer to corruption in India is simpler than instituting a high-tech ID card.

Many of the problems facing India come down to an inescapable fact: the population is huge. Sadly, another awkward reality on the subcontinent is corruption. In an effort to circumvent that corruption in meeting the needs of the 1.2 billion Indians, the government has launched a far-too-ambitious project of national identity cards.

As reported in The National yesterday, a two-year pilot programme for the Unique Identity scheme, involving 210 million people whose identities have been verified via eye scans, has already been described by one economist as a "logistical nightmare".

The aim is to deposit subsidies and welfare payments directly into the bank accounts of the rightful recipients, cutting out corrupt middlemen. The problem is that it's not working. Villagers say they can't afford the time to take a half-day trip to the nearest bank - especially if, as is often the case, the money isn't there to be collected.

High-tech gadgetry is not the way to tackle corruption. To be sure, there is no easy way to control this plague, but a very low-tech approach would we believe be more effective: From top to bottom, find the fraudsters, arrest them, put them on trial and throw them into jail.