Nagpur/Mumbai: In a good news to millions of ration card holders, the Maharashtra Government has announced implementation of portability for ration cards system by which the PDS beneficiaries will be able to purchase their grain entitlement from any fair price shop across the state. This system, aimed at boosting food and nutrition security in the state, will be implemented this month onward.
The State Government will be implementing portability for ration cards. The new system will help the likes of migrant workers who are otherwise deprived of their share of subsidised grain, for not having access to their designated PDS outlets. It will also prevent grains from being diverted to black markets. “Due to the implementation of Aadhaar-enabled PDS (AePDS), the entire system will be upgraded and accessible on real-time basis,” said Mahesh Pathak, Principal Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies.
Maharashtra has around 1.48 crore ration cards covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013. The Act covers up to 75 per cent of rural population and up to 50 per cent of urban population for receiving subsidised food grains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). The state government is seeding Aadhaar numbers with PDS cards and has achieved over 86 per cent seeding so far. A senior official from the food and civil supplies department said, so far, 15 districts were live on the AePDS platform, namely, Ahmednagar, Akola, Aurangabad, Bhandara, Hingoli, Jalna, Kolhapur, Latur, Nagpur, Nanded, Pune, Sangli, Solapur, Wardha and Washim. AePDS was first enabled in the Nagpur Food Distribution Officer (FDO) area which has a high percentage (98percent) of Aadhaar seeding.
Pathak, however, admitted that beyond a point, AEPDS was “not very practical” as it would be difficult for fair price shops to estimate the demand. “The shops can adjust for a maximum of 5 to 10 per cent at the most. More people may come… It may create problems for these fair price shops. They will have to be in touch with each other,” he added.
NFSA families get 5kg allotment of subsidised rice and wheat per person. The Maharashtra government has equipped fair price shops with point of sale (POS) machines to ensure disbursement of grain through biometric authentication. Suresh Sawant of the Rationing Kruti Samiti said, “This will do away with the need for people to apply for fresh ration cards after they migrate and finish off the monopoly enjoyed by PDS shop owners in their areas,” said Sawant, adding it would prevent corruption.
Sawant, however, said while the use of Aadhaar-enabled verification would reduce identity frauds (ghost beneficiaries), several measures are needed to check quantity frauds (short delivery of grain to ration card holders). Estimates suggest that while Maharashtra distributes Rs 12,000 crore of subsidised grain annually to beneficiaries under the PDS, around Rs 2,000 crore worth grain is diverted to the open market.
Estimates suggest that while Maharashtra distributes Rs 12,000 crore of subsidised grain annually to beneficiaries under the PDS, around Rs 2,000 crore worth grain is diverted to the open market.