One Nation One Card Can Supplement PDS
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 3- Issues related to the Public Distribution System (PDS)
Context: Though 60 crore people are covered under the Centre’s ration card portability scheme, inter- state usage has remained very low. It could provide migrants a lifeline during COVID-19 lockdown by providing them free food grains in any part of India.
What is the ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme?
- Objective: to introduce nation-wide portability of ration card holders under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) which will enable them to lift their entitlement food grains from any Fair Price Shop in the country without the need to obtain a new ration card.
- It achieves this by integrating the existing PDS systems/portals of States/UTs with the Central systems/portals, etc.
Difference in inter-state and intra-state usage:
Inter-state usage: From 60 crore people covered under the scheme, only about 200 inter-state migrants are making transactions per month since the lockdown began.
Intra-state usage: It is somewhat higher. In April 2020, 1.05 crore people used their ration cards at a different ration shop within their own district while almost 6.5 lakh used their cards in a different district within their own state.
Why the inter-state usage of the scheme has been “very low”?
- Lack of awareness: Migrants don’t have the correct information about the scheme.
- Most States suspended biometric authentication at ration shops due to fear of Corona: The scheme works with biometric authentication using electronic point of sale machines.
- Scheme still not fully ready for Seamless interstate transactions: The Inter-state portability is being tried on select “clusters” of 12 “contiguous” states. With integration of more states with One Nation-One Ration Card System, the reach of the scheme has increased but still it lacks an all India reach.
- Lack of Ration card: Many migrants ration cards are with their families back in the village.
- Lack of information on internal migration: The scheme should use better updated ways to calculate internal migrations. For instance, the Economic Survey 2016-17 used a new metrics based on data from railways.
Role of PDS in handling corona crisis:
- To ensure food for everyone: Through one nation one ration card scheme, the PDS could ensure that the poor do not go hungry.
- Ensuring Nutrition for children and Women: Women and children bear burnt of corona crisis. The PDS system could provide the necessary food with required nutrition for their growth.
- Controlling food prices: As lockdown has stopped the movement of transport and people, the prices of food grains are expected to rise. With no work, rising prices of food will be disastrous for the poor. The PDS system could utilize the buffer stocks to provide them with free food grains and by providing grains in market, the prices could be stabilized.
- Ensuring self-sustainability for the Migrants: With lockdown, all the economic activities are affected. The migrants are without work which is one of the important reasons for their movement. The PDS could provide food security to them so they don’t have to rely on others.
With economic distress due to COVID 19, the role of PDS will be of paramount importance. Seamless integration of PDS with One Nation One Ration Card scheme would ensure food security for the vulnerable sections.