National

M.P. tribals ‘forced' to pay for UID-linked PDS

Meet Shivraj Singh Chauhan asking him to scrap the existing system, threaten stir

While the Madhya Pradesh government is very excited about linking the State's crumbling Public Distribution System (PDS) to the Unique Identification (UID) scheme, beneficiaries are clearly not happy with the new arrangement which not only makes it mandatory for them to register for the UID, but also pay for it.

Several beneficiaries from the backward tribal-dominated district of Barwani have approached Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan requesting him to scrap the existing system and initiate a comprehensive consultation programme with beneficiaries, failing which they would launch a mass agitation.

The new system, put in place last year, is being implemented by a corporate consortium led by HCL Infosystems with Edenred India Private Ltd — a subsidiary of corporate meal voucher provider and multinational hospitality giant Accor — and Virgo Softech Pvt. Ltd, an Indore-based IT firm as the other two members.

The Hindu was the first to report on the new system, which is a country first, last year.

Under it, PDS will be implemented by way of food coupons linked to the UID.

However, tribal beneficiaries from Barwani have objected to it after they were asked to pay up Rs. 275 for the registration.

Further, they have been “told” registering for the UID was mandatory without which they would not be eligible for the PDS.

“UID is supposed to be free, but not the food coupons. But since food coupon surveys are being used to capture data for UID, effectively, beneficiaries are also being charged for the UID cards.

“This has resulted in a peculiar situation whereby, for example, a well-off executive from New Delhi gets the UID/Aadhaar card for free, but poor adivasis from Madhya Pradesh are forced to pay for the same card,” says Madhuri Krishnaswami of Barwani-based tribal-rights group Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan.

“Further, due to irregularities in the BPL survey methodology and implementation, thousands of poor families have been wrongly categorised as APL and therefore cannot afford to pay for a service they were till now getting for free. Many families have had to sell off their poultry, minor cattle, etc. to meet this new expense,” said Ms. Krishnaswami.

The authorities confirm the situation but say this is a minor glitch that will solve itself out soon. Till that happens, the beneficiaries will have to pay up.

“According to the contract, the government was supposed to pay the service provider [the consortium] Rs. 275 upfront for UID enrolments, to be reimbursed to us by the UID Authority of India [UIDAI],” State Food and Civil Supplies Commissioner Dipali Rastogi told The Hindu.

“Recently, the UIDAI suddenly stopped the reimbursements and so the beneficiaries will now have to pay the amount only for the period till the UIDAI starts the reimbursements again, which they have told us should be done by April,” says Ms. Rastogi.

Once the UIDAI starts reimbursing the State government again, the fee will be returned to the beneficiaries, she said. However, she also admitted that the State government was not clear how much would be reimbursed by the UIDAI.

“Earlier the amount to be reimbursed to us was Rs.275, but now if the UIDAI lowers it, then there is nothing we can do about it,” she said.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 12:27:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mp-tribals-forced-to-pay-for-uidlinked-pds/article2932615.ece

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