One Nation One Ration Card’ Scheme

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    Recently, the Supreme court observed that all states must implement the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.

    • The Supreme court had asked the government to detail its schemes to provide food to migrant workers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    About the Scheme

    • It was rolled out by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in 2019 in 4 states on a pilot basis.
    • Aim: To ensure hassle-free delivery of subsidized food grains to all migratory beneficiaries anywhere in the country through nation-wide portability under National Food Security Act (NFSA).
      • To empower all National Food Security Act migrant beneficiaries to access foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) of their choice anywhere in the country by using their same/existing ration card with biometric authentication.
        • A card bearing 10 digit number will be issued to the complaint state’s BPL card holders which will be linked to AADHAR database.
        • Beneficiaries can lift their entitled foodgrains from any electronic point of sale (ePoS) enabled FPS in the country through portability.
    • This scheme will be instrumental in the welfare of migrant workers.

    Image Courtesy: TH

    Present Status 

    • As of January 2020, a total of 12 States were seamlessly integrated under a single ONORC cluster at the national level.
      • Despite the multitude of COVID-19 related challenges in the past year, a total of 32 States/UTs covering around 69 crore NFSA beneficiaries, i.e. 86% NFSA population in the country, were swiftly brought under the ONORC plan by December 2020.
      • The integration of the remaining four States/UT of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal is expected to be achieved, depending upon the technical readiness of these States to implement the portability of ration cards.
      • The Supreme Court had recently pulled up the West Bengal government for delay in implementation of the ONORC plan in the State. 

    Benefits

    • Huge Internal Migration: According to the 2011 census, there are 45 crore internal migrants who accounted for 37% of the population.
    • Prevent Duplication and Double Benefits: It will help in reducing the number of dual ration cardholders.
    • It will be in sync with the motto of Minimum Government Maximum Governance.
    • Help in understanding migration pattern: The centralised FRP shop data may be used to formulate policies on intra- and inter-state migration.
    • Better efficiency of Food Distribution Schemes: As per the reply to an RTI, over 40,000 tonnes of food grains, including wheat and rice, have rotted in the last six years. With ONORC those left out due to migration can take that food.
    • Less Corruption and Exploitation: Different news articles have reported rampant corruption and exploitation for getting BPL cards by migrants in other states. It will reduce.
    • Empowering BPL Card Holders: ONORC will give the deprived people the choice to choose from corrupt and well functioning FRP shops.
    • Reduce Social Discrimination: It will reduce the role of social identities like caste, class and gender and power relations in availing the PDS facility by women and other disadvantaged class.
    • Help towards fulfilling SDG 2 target of ending hunger by 2030: In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 94th out of the 107 countries.
    • Nutritional Security: With cheap food grain available to migrants, there are chances of more expenditure towards fruits and vegetables.

     

    Criticism/Challenges

    • Exclusion Errors: As the ONORC is AADHAR linked there are chances of exclusion of people living in remote areas especially scheduled tribes.
      • As per the ‘2019 state of AADHAR survey’, 95 per cent of the adults in the country have AADHAR.
      • It means the rest 5% may suffer from hunger due to non availability of AADHAR.
    • Operational Challenges: Internet penetration is still less in India for the smooth functioning of ONORC.
      • Changes in Fingerprints have also been reported both due to genetics and due to constant wear and work-related wear and tear especially in case of labourers.
      • Logistics Issue: There is a quota allocated to every state for the purchase of food grains from FCI.
      • Constant migration may disturb that procurement pattern.
        • At places of emigration, food grain may get wasted.
        • While the places where immigration is dominant may face a PDS food crunch.
      • Split Families:  Many migrants leave their spouses and parents back home. Hence there will be a requirement to issue cards in parts.
        • Also there is a lack of comprehensive data on migrants and their families.
      • Domicile based Social Sector Schemes: There may be tensions over competition for state run social sector schemes due to Common Ration Card which is at present basis for availing such schemes.

     

    Conclusion and Way Forward 

    • To meet Logistic Challenges and optimise the States Procurement:
      • Creation of dedicated ONORC e-platform based on Artificial Intelligence: It may be used to predict and issue the cards to migrants.
      • Use of railways data: As shown in the Economic Survey, the preliminary data regarding migration may be taken up from IRCTC.
      • Unorganised Sector Social Security Act 2008: It has provisions regarding documentation of unorganised informal sector workers at welfare boards.
    • To Handle Operational Challenges:
      • Impetus to BharatNet
      • Deeper Internet Penetration should be promoted
    • To eliminate Exclusion Errors:
      • Constant monitoring and empowerment of Village Panchayats at least in the initial phase.
      • Social Auditing may weed out any inclusion error and help in reducing exclusion error by recommending the names.
    • The ONORC is just the first step of ensuring mass welfare. Its successful implementation may pave the way for interstate portability of Integrated Child Development Services, Mid-Day Meals, immunisation, health care and other facilities for poor migrant households.
    • In the long run, PDS may be replaced by a food coupon system or direct benefit transfer for better compliance with World Trade Organisation Rules.

    About the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013

    • It was enacted in July, 2013 which gives legal entitlement to 67% of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas) to receive highly subsidized foodgrains.
    • Under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), foodgrain is sold at highly subsidized prices of Rs. 1/-, Rs. 2/- and Rs. 3/- per kg for nutri-cereals, wheat and rice respectively.
    • Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act, the term “eligible households” comprises two categories
      • Priority household category is entitled to 5 kg per person per month.
      • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) families are entitled to 35 kg per family per month.
    • Coverage under the Act is based on the population figures of Census, 2011. The Act is now being implemented in all 36 States/UTs and covers about 81.35 crore persons.
    • This overall figure has been divided among the states and Union Territories, based on the NSSO Household Consumer Expenditure Survey 2011-12.
    • The Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution is the nodal ministry for implementing this Act.

     

    What is a Ration Card?

    • A Ration Card is a document issued under an order or authority of the State Government, as per the Public Distribution System, for the purchase of essential commodities from fair price shops.
    • It depends on the number of members in a family and the financial status of the applicant.

    Source:TH