SMS alerts to cardholders when foodgrains reach ration depots

: Public distribution system (PDS) beneficiaries in Kerala, estimated at 80,86,000, will soon get new ration cards embedded with their biometric information. They will also, in the future, get an SMS alert on their mobile phones whenever a consignment of foodgrains, kerosene, sugar, or flour reaches their authorised ration depot or a transaction is made at the retail outlet in their name.

Food and Civil Supplies Department officials say the scheme is primarily to check the large-scale illegal diversion of PDS commodities to the open market, manage the supply chain, eliminate corruption, check pilferage, and ensure accurate targeting of State subsidy.  

It will also eradicate the use of bogus ration cards, an estimated 11 lakh in Kerala, to steal subsidy. (A Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau report indicated last year that only 40 per cent of PDS commodities reached the intended recipients).

The project headed by Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob will be first implemented in Thiruvananthapuram in April and the rest of Kerala in the next 18 months.

NIC task

 The department has tasked the National Information Centre (NIC) to computerise the entire public distribution system to track in real time the movement of PDS commodities from warehouses to authorised wholesale and retail ration depots and finally the beneficiaries.

The NIC will create a computer networked digital biometric database of ration card holders, including their photographs, mobile phone connections and bank accounts, if any, and link it to the Union government’s Unique Identification Project (Aadhaar). 

The database will be linked to varied citizen information repositories maintained by other government departments and used in the future to validate the issuance, modification or cancellation of ration cards. The government will install state-of-the-art “point of sale machines” in 14,267 authorised ration retail depots in the State to biometrically verify the presence of the beneficiary prior to the release of PDS commodities in his or her name.

Internet-linked

The machines will be Internet-linked to the department’s centralised database to enable supply officers to monitor every retail transaction and verify the stock position at PDS depots and warehouses.

Trucks moving PDS commodities from warehouses to depots will be equipped with the latest GPS vehicle tracking systems to help government enforcers keep a tab on their movement on a digital map of Kerala, which will have locations of all ration depots, border check-posts and warehouses plotted on it.

The department will also launch a web portal and open a toll-free helpline number to help beneficiaries lodge requests, track their applications and report complaints/ corrupt practices and inform public of stock positions at ration depots.

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