One Nation One Ration Card: Good intention but implementation may be difficult

Synopsis: The One Nation One Ration Card scheme has many benefits, but it also has a few practical challenges that need to be addressed.


Many welfare schemes are designed with good intentions but encounter many (expected and unexpected) hurdles at the time of their implementation. One such scheme is the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme initiated recently by the Government of India.

Read more: One nation, One ration card scheme
What are the benefits of the One Nation One Ration Card scheme?

A benefit to migratory labourers: Migratory labourers find it difficult to get a ration card in the state of residence even if they have one in their native states.

Even an employee of the organised sector is facing challenges to get a new ration card in the state they have migrated because of documentation requirements.

ONORC provide ration to all such persons without any documentation.

A benefit to migratory labourers families in the home state: This is one of the important benefits of the scheme. When a migrant labourer migrates to another state alone and gets a share of the ration from PDS shops there, the family can continue to obtain ration from the native state.

Reduce subsidy burden: The cross-verification across states with ONORC benefits will eliminate bogus cards and reduce the subsidy burden of the government.

What are the difficulties associated with the One Nation One Ration Card scheme?

Many practical difficulties are likely to surface during the implementation of the scheme. These include,

Does not account for the interstate variation in PDS: Due to historical, political and varying consumption habits, PDS across the country varies with respect to the items supplied through fair price shops to the below-poverty-line (BPL) card-holders. Even the quantity and the price of items supplied varies from state to state. For example,

Product difference: Maharashtra supplies only wheat to the BPL families, while Andhra Pradesh provides only rice. BPL households in a few states like Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are also given pulses.

Quantity difference: In Tamil Nadu, a BPL family gets 20 kilograms of rice, while in Karnataka a BPL household receives 5 kg of rice per member.

Cost difference: In Tamil Nadu, 20 kg rice is given free of cost while in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, it is provided at Rs 3 per kg.

All this resulted in the following challenges.

A Migrant labourer may not like the product which he/she received in the migrated state.

Price variation for the same item across the states involves a subsidy burden to the concerned state. So, the states will be hesitant to pass on the benefits to the migrated person from a different state.

What can be done to improve the One Nation One Ration Card scheme?

The government has to ensure some clarity on the items received by migrant labourers from fair price shops.

Elaborate logistics will have to be worked out if the migrant population is assured to be provided with the items supplied in his native state.

The Union government has assured financial assistance to all state governments willing to implement the scheme. The success of the scheme will greatly depend on the extent of the seriousness of all implementing agencies.

Source: This post is based on the article “One Nation One Ration Card: Good intention but implementation may be difficult” published in Down to Earth on 19th October 2021.

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