‘ One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme makes food security “portable” and is tailor-made for migrant labourers, the government told the Supreme Court on Monday.
“One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) plan aims to empower all National Food Security Act migrant beneficiaries to access foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) of their choice anywhere in the country by using their same/existing ration card with biometric authentication,” the Centre explained in the Supreme Court.
The court had asked the government to detail its schemes to provide food to migrant workers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite the multitude of COVID-19 related challenges in the past year, a total of 32 States/UTs covering around 69 crore NFSA beneficiaries, i.e. 86% NFSA population in the country, were swiftly brought under the ONORC plan by December 2020,” the government, represented by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, said.
The ONORC, the Centre said, was part of technology reforms in Targeted Public Distribution System in the country. With growing inter-State migration from villages and rural towns to big cities, the effort was to ensure that migrant workers and their families got assured access to nutrition via national portability of ration cards under the Food Security Act.
“Although the facility of ONORC shall equally benefit all 80 crore NFSA beneficiaries to lift their foodgrains from any FPS of choice, it primarily aims to enable migratory NFSA beneficiaries (mostly labourers, daily-wagers, urban poor like ragpickers, street-dwellers, temporary workers in organised and unorganised sectors, domestic workers, etc.) who frequently travel in search of better opportunities or for any other reasons, to access the Public Distribution System (PDS),” the government said in its written submissions filed in the court.
Beneficiaries can lift their entitled foodgrains from any electronic point of sale (ePoS) enabled FPS in the country through portability.
“Portability gives that choice, while at the same time enabling the family back home to draw the remainder of the eligible ration,” the government explained.
The nationwide portability of ration cards under ONORC was implemented in May 2019. In August 2019, the inter-State portability of ration cards was started in four States.
By January 2020, a total of 12 States were seamlessly integrated under single ONORC cluster at the national level.
‘Onus is on States’
“The integration of remaining four States/UT of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal is expected to be achieved, depending upon the technical readiness of these States to implement the portability of ration cards... The onus on implementing ONORC is on these States,” the Centre stressed.
The Supreme Court had recently pulled up the West Bengal government for delay in implementation of the ONORC plan in the State. It had said that “ONORC must be implemented in West Bengal”.