The national rollout of the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system is now 32 states strong. Launched in 2019 with four states coming on board on a trial basis, migrant workers and their families who could not access their monthly quota of rations while in another state are now able to access their entitled Public Distribution System (PDS) benefits from any fair price shop across India.
What is 'One Nation, One Ration Card’ system
Over 81 crore Indians are entitled to buy subsidised food grains including rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 a kg, and grains at Rs 1 per kg from the Fair Price Shops (FPS) or ration shops under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
Under this system, any migrant worker having a one ration card would be in a position to collect his quota of entitled rations from the shops in any participating state or union territory. Earlier the ration card holder was allowed to collect the food grains only from the allotted PDS centre as per one's residential address.
How many have benefitted?
According to a PTI report, the central government claims the facility has been enabled in 32 states/UTs covering nearly 69 crore beneficiaries, which is nearly 86 percent of the population covered under the NFSA.
How does this work?
Earlier, a cardholder could only go to his or her fair price shop where they have been registered under their fair price shop. With the new system coming into play, the cardholder registered in Bhubaneshwar and migrated to Kochi for work can walk into the nearest fair price shop to get monthly rations.
In the backend, the new system identifies the beneficiary through biometric authentication with the help of an "electronic Point of Sale” (ePoS) device. Once the authentication is confirmed, the person can collect the food grains.
Is this system only applicable for inter-state?
The system works for both Inter-state and intrastate. So, a cardholder can migrate from one city to another within a state and still be entitled to the monthly rations.
Is the system robust?
Technology-wise, the one nation one ration card system comes under the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) portal (http://www.impds.nic.in/). This portal provides the technological platform for the inter-state portability of ration cards while the Annavitran portal (www.annavitran.nic.in) hosts the data of the distribution of food grains through the E-PoS devices within a state.
Can migrant workers living alone get food grains?
A migrant worker need not move with his or her family to another location to get the food grains quota under PDS. A migrant worker can buy his/ her share of food grains as per entitlement while the rest of his/her family members buy their allotment of food grains from their local fair price shop.
How tough has been the journey
It was launched in 2019 on a trial basis with four states coming forward. In April 2018, the Centre had launched a scheme called the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) to reform the public distribution system in the country. To date, the PDS system is notorious for large-scale corruption, malpractice, inefficiencies, etc.
The linking of Aadhaar to the ration cards is being implemented to identify the actual beneficiaries. At the fair price shops, ePoS machines are being installed. It is an ongoing process with many challenges to overcome.
3 States yet to implement
To date, except for Delhi, West Bengal, and Assam, other states have come on board to roll out the inter-state portability of ration cards under the NFSA. In a recent development, the Supreme Court has passed a directive to West Bengal to implement the system without any further delays. Delhi too has been asked by the Center to implement this as migrant workers are suffering due to their non-cooperation.
Assam has not been able to implement this as the system is linked to Aadhaar authentication. The registration has commenced only after the NRC was updated leaving a large number of people who still do not have an Aadhaar.
How do states and UTs benefit
This system is one of the four citizen-centric reforms identified by the Department of Expenditure. Once this PDS system is implemented in a state, the department allows an additional borrowing of 0.25 percent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). In rupee terms, the additional borrowing permission works out up to Rs 37,600 crore.
The additional borrowing limit kicks in only after the state completes the Aadhaar seeding of all the ration cards and beneficiaries in their state and automation of all the FPSs. Till then, the 0.25 percent additional borrowing is not released.