Ration card Reform

(GS PAPER-3, INFRASTRUCTURE,

SOURCE- THE HINDU)

Context-

Recently, the Apex Court directed all states and Union Territories to implement the One Nation, One Ration Card (ONORC) system, which will allow for inter-and intra-state portability, by the end of July

Portable welfare-

  • Portable welfare benefits simply mean that a citizen should be able to access and approach welfare benefits irrespective of where he or she is in the country. 
  • In the case of edible rations, the idea was first proposed by a Nandan Nilekani-led task force in 2011. 
  • 45.36 crore people or 37% of the beneficiary is that of migrant laborers.

What is the One Nation One Ration Card scheme-

  • The scheme seeks to furnish portability of food security benefits and advantages all across the country.
  • Families who have government food security cards can buy subsidized rates of food from any ration shop in the country. 
  • For example, a migrant worker from, let say, Basti district of Uttar Pradesh will be able to access PDS benefits in Mumbai or Pune, where he or she may have gone in search of work or livelihood. While the person can purchase food grains as per his or her entitlement under the NFSA at the place where he or she is based, members of his or her family can still go to their ration dealer back to their home.
  • Ration cards should be linked with Aadhar Numbers to avail of the required service. 
  • It was initiated in mid-2019 with pilot projects in 4 states and was thought to be rolled out in the whole of the nation by June 2020 but got delayed due to Pandemic.

Taking States on board-

  • To promote and propagate this reform in the archaic Public Distribution System (PDS), the government of India has provided incentives to states. 
  • The Centre had even set the implementation of ONORC as a prerequisite condition for additional borrowing by states during the Covid-19 pandemic last year. 
  • At least 17 states of India, which implemented the ONORC reform and regulation, were allowed to borrow an additional Rs 37,600 crores in 2020-21.

How does ONORC work-

  • ONORC is based on technology that includes details of beneficiaries’ ration cards, Aadhaar numbers, and electronic Points of Sale (ePoS). 
  • The system recognizes a beneficiary through biometric authentication on ePoS devices at fair price shops. 
  • The system works with the support of two portals —
    • Annavitran Portal– It maintains a record of intra-state —inter-district and intra-district transactions.
    • Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) – records all the inter-state transactions.
  • When a ration cardholder goes to a fair price shop, he or she introduces and identifies himself or herself through biometric authentication on ePoS, which is matched real-time with details on the Annavitaran portal. 
  • Once the ration card details are verified and approved, the dealer hands out all the beneficiary’s entitlements. 

What factors led to the launch of ONORC-

  • Earlier, NFSA beneficiaries were not able to access, allocate and relate their PDS benefits outside the jurisdiction of the specific place fair price shop to which they have been allocated. 
  • The government visualizes the ONORC to give them access to benefits from any fair price shop. 
  • Full coverage will be applicable after 100% Aadhaar seeding of ration cards has been achieved, and all fair price shops are encompassed by ePoS devices (there are currently 4.74 lakh devices installed and accessed across the country).
  • ONORC was instigated in August 2019. Work on ration card portability, however, had begun in April 2018 itself, with the launch of the IM-PDS.
  • The design was to reform and regulate the PDS, which has been historically marred by inefficiency and leakages.
  • ONORC was initially launched as an inter-state pilot.
  • However, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced thousands of migrant workers to return to their villages last year, a need has arisen to expedite the rollout.
  • As part of its Covid economic relief package, the government announced the national rollout of ONORC in all states and Union Territories of the nation by March 2021.

What has been the coverage so far-

  • To date, 32 states and Union Territories have collaborated with the ONORC, covering about 69 crore NFSA beneficiaries. Four states are yet to join this scheme — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, and West Bengal.
  • According to the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution, about 1.35 crore transferable transactions every month are being recorded under ONORC on an average.
  • Almost 19.8 Crore portability transactions have been recorded during the COVID-19 period of April 2020 to May 2021 itself
  • While inter-state ration card portability is available in 32 states, the number of such transactions is comparatively lower than that of intra-district and inter-district transactions

Why have these four states not implemented the scheme-

There are various reasons that can be understood by examples-.

  •  For example, Delhi is yet to begin the use of ePoS in fair price shops, which is a prerequisite and important for the implementation of ONORC. 
  • In the case of West Bengal, the state government has demanded with the union that the non-NFSA ration cardholders — ration cards are issued by the state government — should also be covered under the ONORC

-Khyati Khare

 

Download Yojna IAS Daily Current Affairs of 1 July 2021