Till October 2018, the Public Distribution System (PDS) of wheat through 17,000 ration depots was being done manually requiring the beneficiary to show the ration card. But in October 2017, the electronic point of sale (ePOS) was initiated on a pilot basis in four districts of Punjab — Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mansa and Mohali — in an effort to bring about automation in the PDS system. Under ePOS, beneficiaries can get their ration under the PDS just by getting their finger prints matched at the ePOS machines, instead of having to show their ration card.
Eventually, in April 2018, ePOS was rolled out in the entire state. Beneficiaries have also been issued smart ration cards by government. The government has spent Rs 26 crore on the entire automation plan. The results: Punjab has saved a total of Rs 207 crore worth of ration according to Anandita Mitra, Director (Food and Civil Supplies), Punjab.
Meanwhile information from Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu reveals that while the state government was being told to undergo automation of PDS system since 2012, the project never took off. “But our government worked on it soon after coming to power in 2017. When we took over, nearly 2.5 lakh fake beneficiaries’ names were struck off the list after anomalies were found in their records. However ever since we started distribution through ePOS, 12% beneficiaries, which is approximately 16.4 lakhs, are not coming to claim ration as ration will be given only after pressing finger prints on the ePOS machines. This indicates that they were ghost or bogus beneficiaries,” said Ashu.
Andhra Pradesh was the first state in country to adopt the automation of PDS following which directives were issued nationwide to all states to carry out automation.
There are a total of 17,000 depots in Punjab and the department has 1,700 ePOS machines issued in the name of food inspectors. One food inspector covers 10 villages and hence a machine is taken to the ration depot by an inspector for the 4-5 days when the ration distribution is to be done. “This further checks that machine is not being misused,” said Mitra.
She added, “Rs 2 are the charges for wheat, which is given to beneficiaries and our records have reflected that earlier, in many places, even this amount had also not been deposited by many. Earlier 20 paise per kg was the commission of depot holder which we have increased to 50 paise per kg and he/she has been authorised to keep his 50 paise commission with himself/herself and deposit the rest Rs 1.5 per kg of the wheat amount in the bank account opened by the state government,” clarified Mitra.
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