India has plans to roll out 'One Nation One Ration Card' to curtail corruption in the public distribution system
- The Indian Government plans to roll out the '
One Nation One Ration Card' initiative to digitise its Public Distribution System(PDS).
Union Food Ministerclaims that the new initiative will curb corruption and be a boom for migrant labourers.
Integrated Management of PDS(IMPDS) will be real time database to track monthly benefits akin to the GSTIN that's already in place to manage India's Goods and Services Tax.
Ram Vilas Paswan, the Union Food Minister, claims that the new Integrated Management of PDS (IMPDS) will curtain corruption in the system by removing the chances for duplication.
So, if a particular beneficiary holds more than one ration card, they will no longer be able to collect ration more than once just because they travel to a different state. The government will also be able to keep an eye on the monthly entitlements and how much of the food grains are actually being used by the beneficiaries.
This holds in line with government's attempts to digitise its processes. It has already set up point-of-sale (PoS) machines at PDS shops to help with cashless transactions.
Who has the most to gain?
Paswan claims that migrant labourers have the most to gain from the new scheme stating, "They will have full food security. This will also provide freedom to the beneficiaries as they will not be tired to any one PDS shop."
The IMPDS will be a real time database — inspired and augmented from the government's Goods and Services Tax Integrated Management (GSTIN) — that support these efforts.
As of now, it's already operational in 10 Indian states — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura.
PDS is still far from perfect
The importance of PDS in India lies in the fact that it allows the poor to purchase food grains from the government at prices lower than the market rate while also allowing farmers to sell their crop directly to the government as per a pegged 'fair price'.
PDS has come under heavy criticism in the past of allowing food grains to go bad when they've been left in warehouses for too long without the proper storage facilities, not being efficient in delivering food grains from the warehouses to the PDS ration shops, and being unable to accurately determine how to define 'poor' as a criteria.
And, because the government promises to buy all incoming grains from farmers, it can sometimes be at the cost of creating a shortage in the open market leading to higher prices for the public at large.
The new system may address the problem of duplication but the issue of different departments using different criteria to determine the poor is a bane of everyone involved.
In some states, like Haryana and the union territory of Puducherry, the state departments have opted for Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) — akin to the system that's already in place for LPG gas — and has seen encouraging results.