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‘One nation, one ration card’ wlll allow beneficiaries to draw ration at any fair price shop covered by it, across the country, with biometric verification. (Mint)
‘One nation, one ration card’ wlll allow beneficiaries to draw ration at any fair price shop covered by it, across the country, with biometric verification. (Mint)

‘One nation, one ration card’ may miss rollout deadline as states flag concerns

  • West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, among other states are not yet part of the programme
  • Fair price shops have not yet been integrated via e-POS, posing further logistical hurdles for the rollout

NEW DELHI: The ambitious ‘One nation, one ration card’ programme of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to provide subsidized food items to migrant labourers and unorganised sector workers is likely to miss its deadline. The scheme was expected to come into effect by the end of March next year.

The biggest hurdle is posed by some of the state governments that have raised concerns over the move and have so far decided not to be part of the Union government’s programme. Among the states which are not yet part of the programme, NDA and Opposition ruled, are West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

According to the ‘One nation, one ration card’ programmes of the government, beneficiaries of public distribution system (PDS) would be able to draw their ration at any fair price shop (FPS) with biometric verification anywhere across states and Union territories covered under it.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has already announced that subsidised food items like rice and pulses would be made available to migrant labourers and unorganised sector labourers who do not have a ration card till May 2021. The disclosure about the scheme’s progress was made by senior officials of the Union ministry of consumer affairs, food & public distribution during a meeting of the parliamentary committee on labour on Monday.

“So far there are only 24 state governments and Union territories that are part of the programme. While the Union government has reached out to all the states that are not part of the programme but senior officials of the consumer affairs, food & public distribution ministry have so far not been able to convince some of the state governments," said a senior member of the standing committee on labour who was present in the meeting.

Another problem which is leading to delay in the implementation of the flagship programme of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is the inability of the government to install and connect all the fair price shops in the country through electronic point of sale (e-POS) machines. Speaking to members of the labour committee, senior officials of the food ministry so far have not been able to give a specific number on the total number of fair price shops in the country.

“Odisha wants the 'One nation, one ration card' system to be a hybrid system so that it can also cover areas where the public distribution system is not very effective. Similarly, state government of Chhattisgarh is of the opinion that they already have a very robust system of public distribution system (PDS) which provides food items to financially weaker sections. TheUnion government will need to convince the state governments to bring them onboard of the programme," said a senior member of the standing committee on Labour.

On their part, states feel that they can come onboard the national plan only after concerns raised by them are resolved and some of the demands raised are met. “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 Aadhar 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 allow us better implementation," a senior government official from Chhattisgarh said requesting anonymity.

“Our problem is also that there is a sizeable membership for ration based on state’s scheme. Our food grain allocation too is more than what is under NFSA (National Food Security Act). We are demanding that when our state card holders go to other states, even those covered under our state scheme, they should get the same facilities. We are ready to reimburse but there should be a mechanism to implement this," the official quoted above added.

Senior officials of the food ministry also told the parliamentary committee on Monday that the onus of registering with the fair price shops through the e-POS machine technology is with the beneficiaries. “Under the National Food Security Act of the Union government, there are at least 81 crore beneficiaries. The ministry has under taken 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 may not cover all the beneficiaries," a senior member of the standing committee on labour added.

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