One nation one ration card: How many know about it?
Context: Every fifth family in India is still unaware about the benefits of the portability facility provided by the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ (ONORC) scheme, considered to be key to the success of the public distribution system (PDS). This is according to a recent study by social impact advisory group, Dalberg.
What is One Nation One Ration Card (ON-ORC)?
- The scheme seeks to provide portability of food security benefits all across the nation.
- Families who have food security cards can buy subsidized food from any ration shop in the country.
- For instance, a migrant worker from, say, Basti district of Uttar Pradesh will be able to access PDS benefits in Mumbai, where he or she may have gone in search of work. While the person can buy foodgrains as per his or her entitlement under the NFSA at the place where he or she is based, members of his or her family can still go to their ration dealer back home.
- Ration cards should be linked with Aadhar Number to avail this service.
- It was started in mid-2019 with pilot project in 4 states and was supposed to be rolled-out across country by June 2020
What did the study observe?
The study was conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, covering 6,700 low-income households and 1,500 PDS dealers. These states have a 40 per cent share in the PDS and were the first to adopt ONORC.
- ONORC was specifically designed to benefit migrants. However, marginalised women have not able to benefit much from it, especially in matters of availing food grains.
- The facility of inter-state portability for food security and that of selecting a fair price ration shop (FPS) of one’s choice was being availed by 58 per cent of migrant workers.
- The ONORC scheme is also leaving a positive impact on non-migrant worker.
- Widows, divorced women are facing more troubles for ration card updates
What are the challenges with ON-ORC?
- First, the fiscal implications: ON-ORC will affect how the financial burden is shared between states.
- Second, the larger issues of federalism and inter-state coordination: Many states are not convinced about a “one size fits all” regime. This is because States have customised the PDS through higher subsidies, higher entitlement limits, and supply of additional items.
- Third, the technology aspect: ON-ORC requires a complex technology backbone that brings over 750 million beneficiaries, 5,33,000 ration shops and 54 million tonnes of food-grain annually on a single platform. Technical failure of FPS and fear of stocks running out have been found to be the main reasons behind ONORC transaction failures.
- Fourth, lack of awareness: Government orders to provide rations have been given even after transactions failed. Most PDS dealers are unaware of what steps should be taken on such occasions.
How does ONORC work?
- ONORC is based on technology that involves details of beneficiaries’ ration card, Aadhaar number, and electronic Points of Sale (ePoS).
- The system identifies a beneficiary through biometric authentication on ePoS devices at fair price shops.
- The system runs with the support of two portals —
- Annavitran Portal– maintains a record of intra-state transactions — inter-district and intra-district
- Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) – records the inter-state transactions.
- When a ration card holder goes to a fair price shop, he or she identifies himself or herself through biometric authentication on ePoS, which is matched real time with details on the Annavitaran portal.
- Once the ration card details are verified, the dealer hands out the beneficiary’s entitlements.
The Way Forward
There is an urgent need to make people aware of the many benefits it offers.
- Taking States on board: To promote this reform in the archaic Public Distribution System (PDS), the government should provided incentives/ guaranteed compensation to states. This can happen for a minimum of five years.
- Creation of inter-state council: To be effective, this council should meet regularly, have specific decision-making authority, and should operate through consensus building.
- A special technical vehicle for faster implementation, that would track movement of rations, register beneficiaries, issue ration cards, handle grievances and generate analytics. Such a platform should incorporate principles such as inclusion, privacy, security, transparency, and accountability.
- PDS dealers need to be brought on board with adequate training and awareness.
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