One of the big ideas floated by the new central government has been the plan to have a ‘One Nation, One Card’. The Indian Express spoke to Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, to understand what this is and how will it work.
What is the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme?
It means that a ration cardholder will able to buy subsidised food grains under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) from any ration shop throughout the country. In the present system, a ration card holder is restricted to buy food grain from a designated shop in his locality. However, in the proposed system, if he migrates from his locality to another town or state, he will able to buy the subsidised food grains there too. So far, 14 states have started this facility.
When it will be rolled out nationally?
It will become operational from June 1, 2020.
Is public distribution system (PDS) ready for the roll-out of such initiative?
After coming to power in 2014, the NDA government not only fully implemented the NFSA but also digitised almost all the ration cards in the country. Apart from this, we linked ration cards with the Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries. It ensured that only genuine beneficiaries remain in the system and the bogus ones are get eliminated. Through this process, we had eliminated about 15 crore bogus beneficiaries out of the total 81 crore. So far, 89 per cent ration cards have been linked with Aadhaar.
Apart from this, PoS (point of sale) machines were provided at fair price shops. Beneficiaries are required to give thumb impression at PoS machines so that we can check that a person, who is taking subsidised food grain, is genuine or not.
Will there be a new ration card for existing beneficiaries?
No. A misconception is being created that there will a new ration card, which is not true. The present ration card will remain valid and by using it, beneficiaries can buy the subsidised food grains from any PDS shop across the country.
Who will get maximum benefits of this initiative?
It will benefit to all, particularly the poor. Suppose if a person from goes for work in the Haryana or Punjab, he will not lose his right to cheaper food grains as he can buy food grain there also. He will no more restrict to just one ration shop.
Is there any technological challenge in the roll-out of this initiative?
So far, its roll-out in different states has been smooth. We have set the deadline for next year so that states can get more time to implement this.
What will be the additional fiscal burden on the government exchequer?
There will be no fiscal burden. In fact, it will check leakages further.
How will you ensure that people’s privacy is not compromised?
There is no issue of violation of anybody’s privacy. In fact, it will help people as they can buy food grains from any PDS shop from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Was a pilot project to provide cash through DBT in place of food grains?
Yes, there was a proposal of such reform in PDS but it has not been successful. We started cash transfer through DBT in three union territories — Puducherry, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh. But there are problems with banking and power facilities. It is not cost-effective for the poor. There are shortcomings in this system. The UTs now want to roll it back.