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One nation – one ration card

  • Akshatha Sajumon
  • 10 Feb
  • 7 minutes

Implementing nation-wide ration card portability under the “One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) plan,” with an estimated 81 million beneficiaries, is an ambitious undertaking of the Department of Food & Public Distribution, Government of India. This also entails guaranteeing the food security of migrants. While a migrant beneficiary can collect their ration through portability in the destination State/UT, the family at home can get their share of the entitled percentage to support themselves using this option. Portability can be used for a short or extended period. However, it is difficult for migrant beneficiaries to obtain a new ration card due to the defined coverage of beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, in each State/UT. And suppose they are successful in securing one. In that case, it introduces ‘duplicity’ of ration cards/beneficiaries in the country’s Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thereby prohibiting many other legitimately eligible people from being included in the NFSA fold.

Furthermore, their un-accessed/un-lifted food grain in their native village/tagged town’s FPS is vulnerable to diversion by FPS sellers, resulting in government food subsidy losses. The One Nation, One Ration Card reform is based on the belief that the country’s computerization of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) must be advanced to the next level to ensure food security. This technology-driven portability system is being implemented in all States and Union Territories. It is based on the strong foundations of computer-controlled TPDS operations, such as the installed infrastructure of electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices at Fair Price Shops (FPS) and the seeding of beneficiaries Aadhaar with their ration cards.

One nation – one ration card

The government has created a technology-driven system for intra-State and inter-State portability of ration cards, generally known as the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ (ONORC) plan, to address the challenges of migrants with ration card portability. Currently, this method allows many migrant beneficiaries to obtain their food grains from any FPS of their choosing in most country regions, using their same/existing ration card and biometric identity authentication on an ePoS device. This project also gives States/UTs the ability to serve a more significant number of people without incurring any additional costs. Moreover, because their respective beneficiaries can now lift un-lifted food grains through mobility and reconciled/adjusted across States/UTs, this mechanism can stop the leakage/diversion of un-lifted foodgrains in FPSs, reducing the possibilities of un-lifted foodgrains being diverted.

In addition to assisting migrants, this scheme allows all NFSA beneficiaries to obtain their foodgrains from any FPS. As a result, it can limit FPS dealers’ whims and fancies while also encouraging healthy competition among them to serve the beneficiaries better.

The ONORC Scheme covers citizens below the poverty line (BPL). The beneficiaries are identified through an electronic gadget called a Point of Sale based on their AADHAR numbers (PoS). This device can be purchased at any Public Distribution System store. The method uses biometric authentication on a point-of-sale device at the fair shop to identify beneficiaries. Two portals control the system: the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) and Annavitran, which house all essential data. The beneficiary must compare real-time data to the information on the Annavitran portal. The primary goal of this strategy is to improve the country’s Hunger Index while also reducing middlemen’s influence and role.

This plan also assures that people have access to food grain even if they move from one place of work to another. Migrant workers and labourers, daily workers, beggars, and others who migrate from one place to another in pursuit of work will benefit from the scheme. Moreover, it assures that the ration card can be used across state lines. The Union Minister of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution reviews the plan’s implementation status.

The 17 states implementing the ONORC reform have been permitted to borrow an additional Rs.37,600 crore in 2021 under the plan. Under the National Food Security Act of 2013, over 81 crore people are eligible for food grain subsidies from fair shops, including rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and grain at Re.1/kg. In addition, according to the National Food Security Act, households covered by the Antyodya Anna Yojana (AAY) are also entitled to 35kg of food grains for each family.

The ration cardholder is allotted a fair store in the area where his ration card is registered. So far, 33 states and union territories have joined the ONORC system, bringing the total number of beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act to 69 million. The ONORC scheme has now been made available in Delhi, the most recent union territory, to do so. Chhatisgarh, Assam, and West Bengal are the three states that have yet to join this scheme. West Bengal will finish putting in the essential infrastructure before launching the platform. Then, when a sufficient number of PoS machines are purchased, Chhattisgarh will launch the ONORC scheme. Assam is doing its best to implement the scheme and has gathered all of the beneficiaries’ AADHAR information.

Benefits of the scheme

●    Beneficiaries from one state can get their part of the ratio in other states under the program, regardless of which state they are from.

●    It will provide them with the option of selecting their preferred dealer.

●    Because social identification based on caste, class, or gender provides a strong backdrop in accessing the Public Distribution System, it will be helpful for women and other vulnerable groups.

●    This initiative will aid in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’ aim (SDG). It will also assist in identifying India’s bad hunger situation, as noted by the Global Hunger Index.

●    During the COVID-19 epidemic, the government has provided incentives to states and has made increasing borrowing by states a condition.

Technology Driven

The prior efforts of the current central government, in collaboration with all States/UTs, to computerize the TPDS in the country established the groundwork for this transformational endeavour. However, it mostly depends on operational digital Point of Sale (ePoS) devices at FPSs and biometric (fingerprint/IRIS) scanners that comply with UIDAI standards and the seeding of beneficiaries’ ration cards with Aadhaar numbers.

The ePoS servers in the States/UTs are supported by a central repository/system set up by the Department of Food & Public Distribution for seamless interaction of ration card/beneficiary information and acts as a gateway to check for duplication of ration cards/beneficiaries in and across States/UTs using an Aadhaar-based de-duplication process.

Beneficiary outreach

Because the States/UTs are responsible for distributing foodgrains to TPDS beneficiaries, they have been tasked with publicizing and raising awareness about the project in their respective States/UTs and enabling a dedicated 14445 toll-free number for ONORC operations.

Under ONORC, the Department is also conducting a radio-based public awareness campaign in Hindi and ten other regional languages through 164 FM and 91 Community Radio Stations across the States/UTs. In addition, with the help of Indian Railways, these audio advertisements are being broadcast at crucial railway stations around the country to broaden the campaign’s reach to migrants.

The Department uses social media (Twitter and YouTube channels) to spread the word about the program through soft publicity.

Furthermore, the Department has advertised on State Transport Buses and audiovisual spots at train stations to reach out to a specific migratory community. As previously reported in Chapter-2, a specially customized ONORC Mobile App called “Mera Ration” in ten languages has been downloaded over ten thousand times from Google Play Store. It is enabling maximum advantage to migrant beneficiaries by making ration portability easier.

Conclusion

The One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme provides free rations to Public Distribution System (PDS) cardholders. In addition, biometric authentication recipients will receive free rations from low-cost stores. The goal of this strategy is to make food security portable.

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Akshatha Sajumon

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