Rice ATM to ease burden of the poor

Rice recipients, the asnaf, need only to touch the cards supplied to get 2kg of rice a week from the ATM-Rice Machine at Kampung Datuk Keramat Al-Akram Mosque. Photo: Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: There is an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at a mosque in Kampung Datuk Keramat, but it dispenses rice, not money.

The rice ATM at the Al-Akram Mosque is the first of its kind in the country. It dispenses rice for the “asnaf” (zakat/tithe beneficiaries) and also has a donation slot for those wishing to contribute funds to replenish the rice.

The machine was launched at the mosque on Feb 22 by the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) Director Mohd Ajib Ismail.

Nearly 200 residents of Kampung Datuk Keramat attended the ceremony, which saw 10 asnaf receiving their “rice ATM cards”.

Mohd Ajib told Bernama that the mosque had conducted a thorough screening for eligible recipients. Those selected were issued a special card embedded with a smart chip.

“To date, 50 recipients have been selected and they are all registered with the mosque. However, only 10 of the beneficiaries were able to attend,” he said.

Mohd Ajib said using the rice ATM was easy. Recipients only need to tap their card onto the machine’s sensor and 2kg of rice would be dispensed.

“However, there is a withdrawal limit. The machine allows each recipient to withdraw only 2kg a week. Once they have withdrawn for the week, they would have to wait until the following week before they can withdraw again,” he explained.

The machine is capable of storing a maximum of 240kg of rice at any given time. There is a donation slot that allows those who wish to contribute for subsequent rice purchases to donate cash.

“Our goal is to ease and encourage charity,” he said.

This writer learned that the ATM is currently in operation only on Fridays, from 7am to 6pm. Recipients can come at any time during that time slot to retrieve rice from the machine.

Beneficiaries who are unable to make it to the mosque during the time frame can pass their card to a trusted representative to retrieve their portion for them.

The machine was first created in Indonesia and is currently in use in over 100 mosques in the country. Many praised the innovative technology and shared it on social media, which was how Malaysians came to learn about it.

It was donated to the mosque by a magnanimous local company owner who imported the ATM into the country.

On whether JAWI would strive to create its own rice ATM in the future, Mohd Ajib said that they did not currently have the expertise to develop similar technology but welcomed proposals from the public for the creation of such machines in the future.

“There have been parties, however, who are willing to make improvements on the current machine but we cannot divulge any details yet. JAWI is particularly grateful if any party is willing to share ideas to on innovating or creating a machine like this,” he said.

Megasoft Network managing director Datuk Megat Sallehuddin Megat Ibrahim, who donated the machine, said he would support any effort to create the machine locally.

“Perhaps we can add more exciting features and employ better technology. My company has expertise in the field of geographic information system (GIS) and might be able to share ideas with those who are willing to work together to build our own technology,” he said to Bernama.

He said that GIS is a computerised information management system for information management, processing, analysing and producing information that is often associated with map and plan data.

Megat Sallehuddin believed that placing the machine at mosques would not only assist the beneficiaries but facilitate those looking to donate as well.

“When I donated this machine, my intention was to work alongside JAWI in providing a platform to the help the needy and to encourage charitable acts towards those in need,” he said.

He also hoped that the machine would be used as a benchmark for the State Islamic Affairs Department and Baitulmal in improving the delivery of aid to asnaf.

Megat Sallehuddin also agreed with JAWI’s proposal to place a rice ATM machine in 85 mosques in the Federal Territory for the benefit of the 23,000 registered asnaf eligible for rice donations.

One of the recipients of the aid, who wants to be known as only Sofea, said the donation might not seem much but meant a lot for her family.

Sofea earns around RM600 a month from selling nasi lemak and breakfast muffins in front of her home. There were times when she barely had enough money to buy rice or any other food items to feed her family.

“My husband has died and it is up to me to provide for my six children. Life can become very difficult.

“My family and I are happy to accept this kind of contribution and hope the programme will continue,” she said to Bernama.

Another recipient, Muhammad Jani Abdul Jalil, 63, said that such help helped the bottom 40 per cent household income group (B40) due to the relatively high cost of goods these days.

“Although my children give me and my wife RM400 each month, it is not enough for survival due to the high cost of goods. My wife and I are both retired and no longer work.

“This kind of aid would definitely help those in the B40 group like me,” he said.

Omar shows his Rice ATM machine access card and 2kg of rice obtained from the ATM-Rice Machine at Al-Akram Mosque, Kampung Datuk Keramat. Photo: Bernama

Another recipient Omar Abdul Hamid, 66, hoped that authorities could improve aid to asnaf especially in term of health incentives since most of the recipients are unemployed or are retired senior citizens.

“My income is only RM300 a month. Baitulmal has helped me purchasing groceries and paying my house rental. I’m grateful to the mosque for the rice aid. I hope that in the future, mosques can cooperate with local clinics to provide health programmes like free health check-ups at mosques on Fridays,” he said.

The chairman of the Al-Akram Mosque Abdul Karim Mat Asil told Bernama that the committee members of five surau within the area were involved in the selecting and vetting qualified recipients.

He committee members from Surau Seri Perlis 1, Surau Al-Kiramah and Surau Al-Ansar at Kampung Datuk Keramat, Surau At-Taqwa at Jelatek and Surau Al-Ikhlasiah at Jalan Gurney went down to the ground to visit potential recipients and inspect their living conditions to ensure that they were truly qualified for the aid.

He explained the eligibility criteria of a beneficiary were divided into two, namely the poor with a monthly income below of RM3, 000 and the hardcore poor with a monthly income of below RM1,500 per month.

He added that those with a disabled family members, did not receive any assistance from any party and were unemployed were also qualified for the rice aid.

Each surau then nominated the names of 10 eligible beneficiaries. There are plans to increase the number of beneficiaries in the future.

Omar Abdul Hamid receives his 2kg rice quota from the ATM-Rice Machine at Kampung Datuk Keramat Al-Akram Mosque. Photo: Bernama

Abdul Karim said that the Al-Akram mosque committee was planning on adding a cement platform in which the machine would stand on, so that the dispensed rice would be positioned at a level that was convenient for beneficiaries to take.

Recipients currently have to bend down or squat to collect the rice, as the rice dispenser slot was positioned at the lower part of the ATM. – Bernama