Some states such as Bengal, TN, Odisha are yet to back the Centre’s food subsidy scheme for migrants
Only 24 state governments and Union territories are part of the programme
NEW DELHI :
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s ambitious ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ programme to offer subsidized food products to migrant labourers and unorganized sector workers, is likely to miss its March 2021 deadline.
Under the scheme, public distribution system (PDS) beneficiaries will be able to draw ration from any biometric verification-enabled fair price shop across states and Union territories covered by it.
The biggest hurdle to the scheme is the opposition from some states, including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh, which have raised concerns over the move and have decided not to be part of the Union government’s programme. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that subsidized food items such as rice and pulses will be available to migrant labourers and unorganized sector labourers, even if they do not have a ration card, till May 2021.
The disclosure about the progress of the Union government’s scheme was made by senior government officials during a meeting of the parliamentary committee on labour on Monday.
“Only 24 state governments and Union territories are part of the programme. The Union government has reached out to all states that are not part of the programme, but senior officials of the Union ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution have so far not been able to convince some of the state governments," said a senior member of the standing committee on labour, requesting anonymity.
Another problem that may delay the implementation of the programme of the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre is its inability to install and connect all fair price shops through electronic point of sale (e-POS) machines. Senior food ministry officials could not even tell the members of the labour committee how many fair price shops there are in India.
“Odisha wants One Nation, One Ration Card to be a hybrid system so that it can also cover areas where the public distribution system is not very effective. Chhattisgarh was of the opinion that it already has a robust PDS system that provides food items to financially weaker sections. The Union government will need to convince the state governments to bring them on board," said another senior member of the labour committee.
States said the central government must first address their concerns and meet certain demands before they take a call on joining the initiative. “We have a tablet-based system that has been running since 2015, which takes care of both offline and online access. Some of the key problems at this stage is that Aadhaar authentication is not compatible on some add-on devices and that frequent changes are brought in concerning it. We already have floated a tender for e-PoS devices that will help in better implementation," a senior Chhattisgarh government official said, requesting anonymity.
“Our problem is also that there is a sizeable membership for the ration-based state scheme. Our foodgrain allocation, too, is more than what is there under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). We demand that when our state card holders go to other states, even those covered under our state scheme should get the same facilities. We are ready to reimburse, but there should be a mechanism to implement this," he said.
Senior food ministry officials told the parliamentary panel that the beneficiaries must take the initiative to register with FPS through e-POS technology. “Under NFSA, there are at least 810 million beneficiaries. The ministry has undertaken an awareness programme and is also advertising in newspapers to inform people to register themselves with the nearest fair price shops, but the entire exercise is not only time-taking, but also may not cover all beneficiaries," a senior member of the panel said.
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