Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Saturday rolled out a smart ration card scheme for providing subsidised foodgrains to 1.41 crore beneficiaries in the state.
State Food, Civil Supply and Consumer Affairs Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu launched the scheme, which will allow families registered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to withdraw ration from their choice of depots or Fair Price Shops (FPS).
The minister distributed 10 smart ration cards to the district beneficiaries simultaneously via video conference with the CM, who launched the scheme from Chandigarh. Political Secretary to CM, Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu, Mayor Balkar Singh Sandhu and Deputy Commissioner Varinder Kumar Sharma were also present.
The CM gave credit to Ashu, who worked to digitise the whole process of the ration distribution system, which will not only facilitate the beneficiaries but also help to eliminate corruption.
Apart from the present 1.41 crore beneficiaries, Amarinder announced the inclusion of an additional nine lakh beneficiaries, who are eligible but not covered under the NFSA so that every entitled person will benefit from this scheme and the state government will bear the expenditure.
With this, the total number of beneficiaries in the state will go up to 1.50 crore, the chief minister said while rolling out the smart ration card scheme under which 37.5 lakh cards will be distributed to the eligible beneficiaries this month.
The CM said the Centre has capped the maximum number of beneficiaries to 1.41 crore and, despite repeated requests, has not agreed to provide subsidised rations to the deserving nine lakh people not covered under the NFSA. His government has therefore decided to cover all such left out eligible persons under a state-funded scheme, details of which will be announced shortly, he said.
Amarinder said the scheme would help curb corruption and give freedom to the beneficiaries to buy from any depot. Describing it as a major step towards empowering the beneficiary, he said it will end the exploitation of beneficiaries by unscrupulous ration depot holders. The scheme empowers the beneficiary to get his entitled quota of foodgrains from any ration depot in the state of Punjab, he said.
Ashu said that before 2017, food was being distributed using the manual process. After coming to power, the Amarinder-led Punjab government introduced technology and started a pilot project in four districts to distribute food to beneficiaries using e-PoS machines, which was later successfully implemented across the state in 2018.
He said that to make the process more digitised and easier, the Punjab government has launched the smart ration cards, using which beneficiaries can now withdraw the food grains from Fair Price Shops (FPS) through e-PoS machines without carrying any additional documents. The smart ration card will be swiped on the e-PoS machine to fetch the details of the family, after which the biometrics authentication of the family member will be done to withdraw food grains, he said, adding that the cards can also be used for intra-state portability.
Explaining the security features of smart ration card, he said that the details of the beneficiaries integrated into the chip will be locked, and can be read from authenticated devices only. The file structure is designed in such a way that it will be operated through the authenticated e-PoS machines only.
Chairman Improvement Trust Raman Subramaniam, Senior Congress leader Ashwani Kumar Sharma Additional Deputy Commissioner (Khanna) Jaspal Singh, DFSC Sukhwinder Gill, DFSC Harveen and Backfinco Vice Chairman Mohammad Gulab among other prominent persons were present at the launch.
Meanwhile, MLAs and SDMs have simultaneously launched this scheme in other parts of the state by distributing cards to 10 beneficiaries in their respective constituencies.
The CM lashed out at the BJP-led central government for attempting to destroy through three farm ordinances the spirit of Punjab’s farmers, who, he said, have toiled for the country and fed the nation. The ordinances are Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, he said. These ordinances are aimed at ending the MSP regime and will hit the farmers hard, he claimed.
Referring to the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal issue, the CM said that is another problem Punjab is facing. He said while he recently had one meeting with the Union Water Resources Minister and his Haryana counterpart, the problem continues to haunt the state. Pointing to the melting glaciers and the receding groundwater level in the state, he said the situation is critical and the state simply cannot afford to give any water to other states.
– With PTI inputs
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