Q Give an account of the benefits that can accrue from the One Nation One Ration Card scheme. In this context, also discuss the challenges that need to be addressed for the scheme to become a success.
Mains Answer Writing :
• Introduce the answer by explaining the One Nation-One Ration Card scheme.
• Enumerate the benefits of this scheme.
• Discuss the existing challenges that will impact its smooth implementation.
• Conclude accordingly.
One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) allows a beneficiary to avail subsidised ration anywhere in the country, provided the ration card is linked to Aadhaar and there are POS machines installed at ration shops. Recently, it was planned to be made applicable across India from June, 2020 due to its multiple benefits:
• Portability: It makes ration cards portable under the National Food Security Act, allowing for their use at any Fair Price Shop (FPS) across the country, after biometric/Aadhaar authentication through online e-PoS.
• Including migrant population: It is targeted at numerous migrant beneficiaries such as labourers, daily wagers, blue-collar workers etc. who frequently change their place of dwelling in search of employment
• Facilitating ongoing food security reforms: ONORC will further strengthen the reforms brought in by the ongoing scheme of ‘End-to-End Computerization of TPDS Operations’.
• Transparency: Focus is on use of Information Technology right from the time of procurement of food grains till its distribution which will help in increasing the overall efficiency of the entire process, while maintaining transparency and curbing corruption.
However, there are several challenges, which must be addressed to ensure its success:
• Storage and distribution infrastructure: Constraints in PDS such as leakage of grains and rotting due to faulty storage, spurious practices like diversion of food grain stock, sale in the open market by corrupt intermediaries etc.
• Updation of data systems: For ONORC to be successful, the existing beneficiary inclusion and exclusion errors of the PDS need to be taken into account. Exclusion errors are usually the highest for the marginalised groups.
• Logistical challenges: At present, a Fair Price Shop (FPS) receives the monthly quota of products strictly in accordance with the number of people assigned to it. The ONORC, however, when fully operational would disrupt this practice, as some FPSs may then have to cater to larger numbers of cards, owing to migration of people.
• Connectivity challenges: All fair price shops would need ePoS devices for seamless biometric authentication. Though the government has made e-PoS machines mandatory, challenges such as facing poor connectivity and frequent device breakdowns have been reported. Similarly, automating some fair price shops in remote areas may be a challenge.
• Inter-state coordination: Since every state follows a different set of guidelines, such a mechanism does not permit beneficiaries to collect subsidized grain at any other outlet, thereby leaving them with no access to their entitlement when they move out of their district and state.
Harmonisation and well-sync coordination between these systems will be key to ensuring an effective ONORC implementation. States will additionally have to ensure distribution and transport mechanisms are up to date.