The ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ initiative by the government that largely covers migrant labourers and daily wagers will come into force on 1 June 2020, said Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan on Tuesday.
Record-keeping by hand is back at this “automated” fair price shop in Bangur, a dense Kolkata suburb, ever since its electronic point-of-sale (ePoS) machine broke down and had to be sent for repair.
Keeping an eye on the weighing scale while giving beneficiaries their quotas of gom (wheat) and chaal (rice), Lakshmi Kant Aich, who has been running the ration shop for decades, is making notes about the transactions on a booklet.
Paswan informed the Lok Sabha that the facility will be made available after biometric/Aadhaar authentication on ePoS (electronic Point of Sale) devices. The inter-state portability with the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ initiative would be available only through the FPSs having fully online ePoS devices.
“This system would largely benefit the numerous migrant beneficiaries such as labourers, daily wagers, blue-collar workers etc. who frequently change their place of dwelling in search of employment or for other reasons across the country,” he said. Besides, the government is working on ‘One Nation One Standard’ initiative to harmonise standardisation activity.
Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai informed the Lok Sabha that the government at present has no plans to issue a single card to all citizens of the country for all utilities.
However, the absence of an ePoS device is slowing down the process. One beneficiary, Sanat Kumar Saha, is here to link his Aadhaar to his ration card through a biometric verification facility on the device. He goes back disappointed.
Aich says though the government has made ePoS machines mandatory, dealers are facing poor connectivity and frequent device breakdowns.
His shop is one of the 17,157 automated fair price shops in West Bengal with an electronic recordkeeping and point-of-sale device, while the remaining 3,649 shops have yet to be automated.
The challenge for migrant workers to buy ration may change if the food and public distribution ministry’s One Nation One Ration Card scheme to make ration cards portable gets going, with biometric verification and ePoS machines acting as the lynchpins. Under this initiative, which is expcted to be rolled out across India by the next financial year, any migrant ration card holder will be able to buy subsidised foodgrain from any fair price shop in India without the need to obtain a new ration card for the new location. This will reform the current rule under which a beneficiary could buy ration only from a nearby shop linked to the ration card.
The ministry has already launched intra-state ration card portability in 11 states and inter-state portability between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, Haryana and Rajasthan and Karnataka and Kerala. This means a ration card holder from Gujarat can not only buy his stock from any of the ration shops in his state but also from Maharashtra.