Monday, April 2, 2007

Breaking news from Bihar: shiny techno toys NOT a solution to corruption or poverty

In an effort to cut out the middleman paying workers governed by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Central Bank of India debuted a biometric ATM -- essentially hoping to democratize access to banking by finding a way for illiterate people to interface with financial institutions.

Problem, though? Probably not a good idea to roll this bad boy out in Bihar, where the local honcho is refusing to deposit wages into the bank, because "it's a complicated process."

The story about it in the Indian Express was a bit heartbreaking for me, especially reading about the daily wage earner who took part in a ceremony to celebrate the introduction of the new ATM; after flashing his thumbprint, a Rs 1,000 note was dispensed -- and then promptly recovered by the bank, because it was only for show. '“Since then, I have been waiting to use the machine again, but the mukhiya doesn’t let us,” [the daily wage earner] said.'

Sometimes, the strangest things make my heart hurt.

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