The proposed installation of digital point of sale (POSS), a machine which keeps electronic records of transactions to make the country’s ration system leak-proof, is still lagging behind the target as the performance on this direction of several states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal is abysmal, says the data of the Ministry of Food and Public Distribution (MFPD).
According to the data of the MFPD, out of the 5.83 lakh subsidised ration shops, so far only 2.27 lakh shops have been equipped with the POSS.
The linking of Aadhaar to ration card is also going slow in many states. “Despite several deadlines getting lapsed, many states are still far behind in the linking of the ration system with Aadhaar numbers and so far, only 70% ration cards have been linked to the Aadhaar numbers,” a senior official of the MFPD told The Sunday Guardian.
Activists have alleged that the state government is not working as an enabler in the digitisation process of the rationing system which would have helped the poor to avail of their right to food.
“The state government should be serious about linking of Aadhaar to the ration card and play the role of an enabler in the entire process instead of cancelling the ration cards and terming them fake. This is preventing the poor from availing grains and is unethical,” Nresh Meena, professor of Rajasthan University, who is also linked with the right to food campaign, said.
“Many states are still far behind in linking of ration system with Aadhaar numbers and so far, only 70% ration cards have been linked to the Aadhaar numbers.”
In October 2017, an 11-year-old girl in Jharkhand’s Simdega district died of starvation, allegedly because her family’s ration card was cancelled because it was not linked to their Aadhaar number. Although this was refuted by the state government.
“The digitisation process will help in checking leakages in the subsidised ration distribution system in the country but till the time all the ration cards are not linked to Aadhaar, the state should not deny any poor from getting subsidised ration,” Meena told The Sunday Guardian.
The targeted public distribution system is the largest subsidy programme in the country. Under the National Food Security Act, each individual is entitled to 5kg food grain per month at a subsidised rate of Rs 2-3 per kg.
“Due to the ration card being digitised and connected to the Aadhaar number, 30 lakh fake ration cards have been cancelled. This has saved a food subsidy of Rs 20,000 crore annually,” the official quoted said.
Once the ration cards are fully operational by 2019, consumers can avail of food grains from any ration shop in the country. Work is underway to prepare a public distribution system network in this direction.