The Maharashtra government is in the process of implementing a system to authenticate government-issued caste certificates through a blockchain system. The system, to be put in place in the Maoism-affected Gadchiroli district, will allow instant, 10-second verification that will rule out any duplication or forgery of caste certificates. It will also help protect the rights of the tribals, say government officials.
The project is the first of its kind in the country and assumes significance as Gadchiroli is one of the most backward districts in Maharashtra with a tribal population of around 70 per cent. Once the project is implemented, any third party, such as employers, educational institutions, government agencies, judicial bodies etc., can verify the authenticity of caste certificates. Officials said the use of blockchain will protect the privacy of all the data without exposing it to the internet. The process, they said, will involve merely scanning a QR code.
Further, blockchain implementation ensures the immunity of the citizens from any kind of ‘de-platformation’ in the future. In other words, once the information is stored on a blockchain, no one will be able to erase the caste records.
As a first step, the project will begin in the Etapalli subdivision of the district which comprises villages from Etapalli and Bhamragad. These regions have a huge tribal population who need the caste certificates to access various government subsidies and benefits.
Currently, the state issues digitally signed caste certificates to its citizens via the ‘MahaOnline’ portal. However, for convenience, the majority of the population holds their caste certificate as a paper printout. But this makes it impossible to authenticate the digital signatures.
The proposed blockchain system will cryptographically commit important details of every caste certificate on the blockchain and generate a unique QR code consisting of blockchain proofs that are embedded on each caste certificate.
Subsequently, the open verification system available on the government website will enable the department concerned (or any other third party) to verify the authenticity of a certificate.
The sub-division office-Etapalli, which is headed by Assistant Collector Shubham Gupta, will soon begin running the data of 65,000 caste certificates through the blockchain system. Over the next month, all the data of caste certificates will be fed into the blockchain system to generate blockchain-enabled caste certificates with unique QR codes on them.
These certificates will be issued to the citizens via the common service centres (CSC) that are already functional across the sub-division. Once launched, at the click of a button, the system will show on the screen whether the caste certificate is authentic along with a few important caste-related details of the person to ensure it is issued to the same person. Once the system is ready, it will prevent miscreants and anti-social elements from misusing the caste certificates to avail of benefits that are meant for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, officials said.
Gupta told The Indian Express, “The government is also doing a special drive where we will issue certificates to SCs and STs so they can avail benefits from the government schemes.” During elections, people contesting elections misuse caste certificates for personal gains. Some people make fake caste certificates to get government jobs, or get admitted to educational institutions or avail of other government schemes.
LegitDoc — the company enabling this system — has already helped the Maharashtra government in using the blockchain system for the issuance of educational certificates in the past.
Neil Martis, Co-founder of LegitDoc said, “This surely will set a revolutionary precedence that will be followed not only by other Indian states but by global governments as well.”
The website will enable anyone to interact with it and verify a sample certificate.