Verification of beneficiaries, portability and issuance of new cards is set to become quicker and hassle-free with the state government giving a go ahead for updating ration cards online. Issuance of new cards will also go online.
Kailash Pagare, the Controller of Rationing and Director of Civil Supplies, said the reform will be implemented within the next three months. In the first phase, the online service will be offered in the urban belts of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), where 19.47 lakh households are covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and another 13 lakh families above poverty line families supplied subsidised ration under the public distribution system.
Since May, a free food grain scheme is also being run for migrant families and native daily wage earners as part of the Centre’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ package.
According to records, there are 2.36 crore active ration cards and 9.98 crore beneficiaries across the state. Senior officials say the number of the beneficiaries will rise once the nationwide portability of ration cards is implemented under the ‘One Nation, One Ration card’ scheme.
One of the searing images of the coronavirus crisis was the displacement of the migrant workforce, many of whom were left to fend for themselves for the first two months amid mass closures. Waking up to their plight, the Centre had in May announced free ration supplies, besides a plan to cover the whole of India under the portability scheme before March 2021. So far, 24 states, including Maharashtra, have been linked to the scheme.
Maharashtra had initiated digitisation of ration card and development of a dedicated ‘Ration Card Management System (RCMS)’ in 2018. The National Informatics Centre, which was assigned the task, has so far created an e-record of 97 per cent of the ration cards. But as citizens services are being rendered manually, multiple visits to rationing offices are required.
“This offline process is tedious. At times, citizens have also complained that they were ill-treated. The online system will do away with this manual interface,” Pagare said. “Our plan is to deliver the new or updated cards at the doorstep of a beneficiary just as it is done for a passport application.”
Officials said the online system will also promote paperless governance and reduce the burden on the rationing staff, which is overburdened with the increased workload during the pandemic and due to unfilled vacancies.
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