Six years after the Justice D P Wadhwa Committee — appointed by the Supreme Court — called for an “end-to-end automation and computerisation of the Public Distribution System (PDS) chain”, the Delhi Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs department is ready to send out tenders for ‘point of sale (PoS)’ devices
The decision to install these devices in each of the capital’s 2,772 fair price shops (FPS) has been taken to prevent pilferage of foodgrains meant for the poor, officials of the department said.
“The project also aims to sell ration items to beneficiaries only on biometric authentication of one of the family members. The system has already been tested in four shops and is ready to be replicated in all shops across the city,” S S Yadav, Secretary-cum-Commissioner, Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs department, said.
Apart from checking pilferage, Yadav said the devices will also help weed out bogus cards that facilitate such diversion, and would lead to effective monitoring and record keeping. The system will also provide portability in the long run, Yadav said.
The decision to tender the procurement the POS devices was taken after the “success” of the pilot project launched in four FPS in the last two months. The ration for April and May was sold through the device after biometric authentication of beneficiaries through the Aadhaar Server.
“The cost of installing these devices will be borned by the Delhi government. It will be mandatory for the owner of each FPS to have at least one POS device to get their licence,” Yadav said. The Delhi government has already submitted a detailed proposal of Rs 7.50 crore to the Centre’s Department of Food and Public Distribution to seek assistance from the government.
The project has been taken up in consultation with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the National Institute for Smart Governance (NISG), which is also the main consultant drawing the tender conditions.
The Wadhwa Committee, which was given the task of looking into problems in functioning of the PDS, had submitted that “the whole system of procurement and distribution of food grains is built on corruption and its benefits to the poor are low”. In its report to the Supreme Court on August 21, 2007, the Committee had recommended “least human intervention and end-to-end automation and computerisation of the complete PDS chain, so as to check the diversions and leakages which plague the system at present”.
At present, Delhi has 17 lakh families holding ration cards, against a Central cap of 73 lakh beneficiary families under the National Food Security Act. Under the system, paper ration cards are issued to eligible families and wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene oil are offered at subsidised prices as per their eligibility recorded on the cards.
A senior Delhi government official said, “While the record of eligibility and transactions is maintained manually — both on the ration cards and the registers maintained at the FPS — diversion of stocks is made possible by the presence of ghost ration cards in circulation.
This enables retailers to siphon off stock by making fictitious transaction entries.”