NITI Aayog, India’s apex public policy think tank, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have embarked on a groundbreaking pilot project that leverages blockchain technology to issue caste certificates to the tribal population of Etapalli, Gadchiroli. This initiative marks one of the first instances where a government body has officially recommended the use of blockchain in a public service. The project aims to improve transparency, prevent fraud, and ensure the rightful entitlement of government aid for the Scheduled Tribe population, including vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) such as Madia and Gond.
The Power of Blockchain in Issuing Caste Certificates
In the recently published Best Practices 2023 compendium, NITI Aayog and UNDP recognized the district administration of Gadchiroli for launching a program to issue caste certificates anchored on the polygon POS blockchain. By utilizing blockchain technology, the certificates become cryptographically secured, enabling instant authentication through uncensorable and publicly auditable data stored on the blockchain. The pilot project is specifically being conducted in the Etapalli sub-division, catering to the majority Scheduled Tribe population of Gadchiroli.
Addressing Fraud and Ensuring Rights
According to NITI Aayog and UNDP, the implementation of blockchain technology in issuing caste certificates can significantly reduce fraudulent benefit claims. The immutable nature of the blockchain prevents tampering and ensures the authenticity and integrity of the certificates. This system safeguards against malicious attempts to de-platform individuals who genuinely belong to a particular caste and are entitled to government aid. By leveraging blockchain, the government aims to create a more inclusive and transparent process for providing social benefits to marginalized communities.
Collaboration for Success
The success of this pilot project can be attributed to the collaboration between IAS Shubham Gupta, Assistant Collector of Etapalli, Gadchiroli Maharashtra, and Neil Martis, co-founder of Zupple. In 2022, they worked together to issue 65,000 caste certificates on the blockchain, pioneering a new approach to governance. The NITI Aayog’s recognition of this project underscores its potential for scalability and applicability across sectors.
Beyond Caste Certificates: Expanding Possibilities
Martis believes that the blockchain-based model used for issuing caste certificates can be extended to other domains and sectors. The private sector, for instance, can benefit from the implementation of blockchain for areas such as purchase orders, invoices, and more. By building a robust invoice discounting and credit system on top of the blockchain, businesses can streamline their operations and enhance transparency. Additionally, the system can be extended to insurance policy documents, enabling easy collateralization for individuals seeking loans.
The collaboration between NITI Aayog, UNDP, and local authorities in Gadchiroli represents a significant step towards leveraging blockchain technology for social inclusion and governance. The pilot project’s use of blockchain in issuing caste certificates demonstrates the potential for blockchain to enhance transparency, prevent fraud, and ensure the rightful entitlement of government aid. As this project paves the way for future blockchain applications, it serves as an inspiring example of how innovative technology can empower marginalized communities and create a more inclusive society.