In a move that is likely to bring a significant change in the public distribution system (PDS) in the state and relief specially to migrant population, Gujarat government is all set to bring portability of ration cards in the state. The initiative is likely to be implemented by June this year as Gujarat has been selected by the Centre, along with three other states — Haryana, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh — to start a pilot project in this regard.
As per the current system, a ration cardholder can get the subsidised foodgrains, sugar and kerosene from the shop which has been allotted to him/her. The ration cardholder cannot get it from any other shop. However, with the new project, a cardholder can buy grains and other stuff from any ration shop in the state.
A senior government officer said, “Once implemented, this will be a big change in the PDS of Gujarat. And the migrant population of the state will be a major beneficiary of this portability of ration cards.”
“For Gujarat, we have completed seeding procedure (a procedure by which the unique identifications issued by the UIDAI are included in the database of service providers so that they can use the Aadhaar identity for authentication during service delivery). We are now waiting for the Centre’s nod to kickstart the project. The Centre is most probably waiting for three other states to complete their seeding procedure. But it is likely to start by June this year,” the officer added.
In Gujarat, there are 1.27 crore ration card holders of which 69 lakh are entitled for ration at subsidised rates in 17,200 fair price shops.
Government officials say that the biggest beneficiaries of the ration card portability will be migrants. “In Gujarat, we see three major migrant populations. Tribals of Panchmahals, Dangs and Dahod go out for work in different parts of the state. Similarly, there is migration of Maldhari community during summer. And the third major migration is that of diamond workers from Saurashtra to Surat. With portability of ration card, these people will be able to get their ration from anywhere in the state which has not been the case so far,” said a senior officer.
Harinesh Pandya, a leading voluntary worker in the field of food security in Gujarat, said, “Portability of ration cards can be a very good concept provided it is implemented properly. Gujarat government had once started a similar project in Panchmahal district by giving roaming ration cards to tribals. However, it did not work out well.”
The latest portability project is completely based on Aadhaar cards of the beneficiaries. Recently, Gujarat government has done away with its biometric system of ration card verification and replaced it with Aadhaar data. The change was necessitated after a major scam of leakage of biometric data of noted public personalities and misuse of the same in procuring subsidised ration by black marketeers was unravelled in Surat.