Economist and social activist Jean Dreze and his team have written to the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar urging him not to switch over to the bio-metrics system, which depends on machines for distribution of PDS, citing negative reports regarding these from Rajasthan and Jharkhand.
On Thursday, however, Jharkhand PDS Minister and senior state BJP leader Saryu Rai defended the system saying teething problems in implementing a new regime should not be used as an excuse to dump the entire initiative. He also said that media reports in the past few days have also created impression that the system has failed completely, which was not true.
Jharkhand had initiated bio-metrics-based PDS distribution system in state’s eight districts in the first phase on August 14. This system envisages use of point-of-sale (PoS) machines that are present with the PDS shop owners and the finger-prints of the beneficiaries are required to avail of the ration benefits.
Dreze told The Indian Express that the letter was written to the Bihar CM on September 11. In our view, the performance (of the system in Jharkhand) is negative. Many people are being left out. Also, one of the things that the authorities need to decide is the minimum level of satisfaction that should be achieved using the machine-based system before declaring that the system is working. If it is in the high 90s, it can still be considered. But, when it comes to monthly rations, it can’t be lower, he said.
There were also reports in a section of the media that some families of leprosy patients in Indira Nagar locality of Ranchi district were not able to avail of the ration as their finger-prints were difficult to obtain.
At a press conference, Rai said that all the families have already been alternative ways to avail of the benefits and, as of now, rations have been provided to them.
We are initiating it phase-wise. It has been only one month since the first phase got implemented. We welcome shortcomings being pointed out. But to say that the system has failed entirely is not the correct assessment, said Rai.
However, Rai added that the implementation of the second phase (in 10 districts) and the third phase (in six districts) will be postponed by a month. We are not going to hide the problems that are arising. That is why we have decided to assess all aspects, sort them out and then roll-out the next two phases. The second phase, which was scheduled for September, would now be implemented in October, and the third phase in November, instead of October, he said.
The minister, however, clarified that people will continue to get rations through various ways. There is, of course, the system using finger-prints. For those, whose finger prints are not matching, we have a system of authentication through one-time-password on registered mobile number. And, for those, who don’t have mobile, can come to the shop at a set date and use a government officials login. The data will later be updated. The system can be availed of offline too, he said.