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Inter-State ration card portability usage very low: Food Minister

Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. File   | Photo Credit: Kamal Narang

Although 60 crore people are now potentially covered under the Centre's ration card portability scheme, inter state usage has been very low so far, with only about 200 inter-state migrants making transactions per month since the lockdown began, according to Food Ministry data.

Even pre-lockdown, it was only 800 transactions per month, out of the 22 crore ration cards making transactions each month.

If utilised properly, the One Nation One Ration Card scheme could allow migrant workers to access free foodgrains wherever they are, not just in their home villages, providing a lifeline for desperate migrants during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Intra-state usage has been somewhat higher. In April, 1.05 crore people used their ration cards at a different ration shop within their own district, while almost 6.5 lakh used their cards in a different district within their own state, Food Ministry data shows.

“So far, 17 States and union territories have joined the portability scheme, and another three States are likely to join by June,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told journalists on Friday. However, he admitted that inter-state usage of the scheme has been "very low", because of lack of awareness as well as the fact that most States have suspended biometric authentication at ration shops due to fear of infection.

Also read: Ram Vilas Paswan says 20 States getting ready for launch of ration card portability from June 1

The portability scheme could not work without biometric authentication using electronic point of sale machines, Mr. Paswan said. In fact, during a recent conference with the Centre, several States had suggested allowing distribution using just ration cards due to the fear of infection spreading from multiple people using the fingerprint reader on these machines. “That would open a Pandora’s Box which we do not want,” said Mr. Paswan. “We have told them to ensure that hand sanitiser is placed next to the point of sale machines to prevent infection,” he added.

Wheat procurement

On procurement of wheat from farmers during the ongoing rabi marketing season, the Minister said it was lagging behind by 18.35% following shortage of jute gunny bags due to the lockdown. As on May 8, cumulative procurement of wheat for the season was 226.85 lakh tonnes, in comparison to 277.83 lakh tonnes for the corresponding period last year.

“We have given permission for the re-use of jute bags and also for a 30% use of plastic bags,” said Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey. Wheat procurement has been extended until mid-June, as the lockdown has also caused labour and transport shortages.

Mr. Paswan urged the State governments to ensure speedier distribution of pulses, noting that while the entire allocation of 1.95 lakh tonnes for April had been dispatched by the Centre and 93% of that had been received by States, only 27% had actually reached beneficiaries.

“Distribution of pulses is the responsibility of the State governments. The Centre has overcome a number of challenges to get the pulses milled and transported to the States even in the midst of the lockdown. But the States must put in extra effort to ensure distribution,” said Mr. Paswan.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 3:26:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/inter-state-ration-card-portability-usage-very-low-food-minister/article31537575.ece

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