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One Nation One Ration Card

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    6th Jul, 2021

Calling One Nation One Ration Card “an important citizen-centric reform”, the Supreme Court has set a deadline of July 31 for all states to implement the scheme and further noted that “its implementation ensures availability of ration to beneficiaries under National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes.

Context

Calling One Nation One Ration Card “an important citizen-centric reform”, the Supreme Court has set a deadline of July 31 for all states to implement the scheme and further noted that “its implementation ensures availability of ration to beneficiaries under National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes.

Background

  • To sustain the reforms brought in by scheme on ‘End to End Computerization of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) Operations’ a new scheme was launched namely Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS).
  • Keeping in view the physical progress under the ongoing scheme and readiness for implementation of National Portability, it was decided to implement inter-State/National Portability scheme.
  • This interoperable scheme under the Public Distribution System is One Nation One Ration Card Scheme.

Analysis

What is ONORC Scheme?

  • It aims to provide an option to all eligible ration card holders/beneficiaries covered under NFSA to access their entitlements from anywhere in the country.
  • The distribution of highly subsidized food grains is enabled through nation-wide portability of ration cards through the implementation of IT-driven systems by:
    • installation of ePoS devices at FPSs
    • seeding of Aadhaar number of beneficiaries with their ration cards and
    • operationalisation of biometrically authenticated ePoS transactions in the State/UTs.
  • Till Feb’ 21 the facility has been enabled in 32 States/UTs covering nearly 69 crore beneficiaries, almost 86% of NFSA population of the country.

Challenges with earlier regime

  • Beneficiaries were confined to particular Fair Price Shops (FPS)
    • Ration Cards were tagged to a particular FPS
    • Beneficiaries can avail foodgrains from tagged FPS only
    • Dependent on the whims-and-fancies of the FPS dealer
  • Loss of food security due to migration
    • Migrant beneficiaries lose access to subsidised foodgrains
    • Forced to purchase from open market at inflated prices
    • Very purpose of ‘Food Security’ under NFSA was not fulfilled
  • Difficulty in getting new Ration Card
    • Lengthy process to obtain new ration card at new place
    • Requirement of supporting documents and local proofs
    • Prone to introducing duplicity of ration card/beneficiary

Reason for non implementation in few states/UT

  • Delhi: yet to operationalize ePoS in fair price shops which is one of the core component of ONORC scheme.
  • West Bengal: Demanded that beneficiaries of non-NFSA ration cards (issued by state government) should also be included in the scheme.

Benefits of the One Nation One Ration Card

  • Interoperability of ration cards:
    • Beneficiaries will be able to purchase subsidised food grains in any part of the country if their ration cards are linked to the Aadhaar number.
  • Empowering all migrant beneficiaries:
    • The scheme has been launched keeping in mind the country’s internal migration, as people continue to move to different states in search of job opportunities and better standards of living.
    • One of the key challenges faced by migrant workers in cities at the beginning of the lockdown was lack of food security and access to food grains.
    • The One Nation One Ration Card system will certainly help get our labour force back into the cities.
  • Reducing discrimination:
    • The scheme will give beneficiaries the option of choosing the concession holder of their choice. If any dealer misbehaves or misallocates, the beneficiary can instantly switch to another FPS shop.
    • The scheme will reduce the practice of black marketing at PDS shops due to installation of ePoS machines
  • Achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG):
    • This will help achieve the target of ending hunger by 2030. Also, it will address the poor. In the 2020 Global Hunger Index (GHI), India ranked 94 out of the 107 countries.

Mera Ration Mobile App

The government has  developed a Mobile App “MERA RATION”, to facilitate various ONORC related services among  NFSA beneficiaries  particularly migrant beneficiaries, FPS dealers and other relevant relevant stakeholders

Challenges in implementation

  • Exact data on the mobility of poor households migrating to work, locating intra- and inter-state destinations and sectors employing the workers is challenging, which will affect the allocation of food grains to different states.
  • Without the portability of Integrated Child Development Services, Mid-Day Meals, immunisation, health care and other facilities for poor migrant households the aim of nutritional security will remain elusive.
  • Since the scheme is based on two important guiding principles: Aadhar and digitalisation of ration cards. Due to poor digital literacy and internet penetration and authentication errors the entitled can remain excluded.
  • Unless the government brings in ‘divisibility’ of the ration card, it might be challenging to keep track of the migration pattern.
  • Experiences show that implementation is a demanding process and the deadline seems highly unlikely to be met in a way that it is in practice effective.

Conclusion

The poor and vulnerable (who are more mobile today) are in search of better means of subsistence, wages and opportunities beyond their native villages, and require better access to social assistance laws to avail their entitlements. ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme will ensure food security of the migrant family. Monitoring the entire value chain of the scheme, mainly availability and operations of the PoS systems in PDS stores must be undertaken to control compromises in entitlements.

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