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Four more States join ration card portability

A file photo of people queueing up outside a ration shop in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Ration card holders in Kerala and Karnataka, as well as in Rajasthan and Haryana, will be able to buy subsidised food from ration shops in the neighbouring State from next month, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Tuesday.

With effect from October 1, these two new clusters will join the existing State pairs of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, as well as Maharashtra and Gujarat as pioneers in inter-State portability of ration cards, he told a conference of Food Ministers and secretaries from across the country. Mr. Paswan was laying out the roadmap for the One Nation One Ration Card system of complete nationwide portability, which the Centre hopes to implement by June 2020.

By January 1, 2020, the Centre hopes the eight States in these initial experimental clusters, as well as Jharkhand, Punjab and Tripura, can be clubbed into a single grid. This means that migrants from these 11 States can access their rations guaranteed under the National Food Security Act in any of the other State within the grid.

These 11 States have already achieved the first step of implementing intra-State portability, where NFSA beneficiaries can use their ration cards in any ration shop within their own State, not just the shop where the card is registered. By March 2020, intra-State portability will be implemented in another 13 States and Union Territories: Tamil Nadu, Goa, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

These are mostly States where almost all ration shops have electronic point of sale machines. However, 10 States are lagging behind badly, said Mr. Paswan. “There is only 70% coverage of ePOS in West Bengal, 33% in Uttarakhand and 15% in Bihar. In the north-east, in Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam, [as well as in Delhi], there is no coverage at all. This is where we must focus,” he said.

Apart from ePOS coverage, Aadhaar authentication and online supply depot management are also critical for the implementation of the system. Asked why Tamil Nadu, unlike all other southern States, is not part of the early clusters for inter-State portability, Food Secretary Ravikant pointed out that Aadhaar authentication must be implemented widely in order for the State to join the scheme.

Mr. Ravikant also said that measures were being taken to prevent misuse of the portability system. “We will allow partial lifting of rations, where a maximum of 50% of the ration can be picked up at one time,” he said. This would help prevent one member of a household lifting the entire ration at one location, depriving other members of the family who use the same ration card in a different location.

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Printable version | Jan 14, 2021 6:14:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/four-more-states-join-ration-card-portability/article29325490.ece

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