Over 2.33 crore ration cards have been weeded out since early 2013 as part of government efforts to identify the beneficiaries of the food security law. The reduced instances of ghost-lifting have resulted in annual savings of around Rs 14,000 crore to the exchequer.
Though millions of new ration cards have been issued in the same period and the law itself inflated the food subsidy bill, yet the last three years’ public distribution system (PDS) reform helped plug leakages and curbed the growth in subsidy outgo, officials said.
The reform started with digitisation of ration cards and their seeding with the unique identification number Aadhaar. All 24.3 crore ration cards in the country are now available on transparency portals of states/UTs, and 65% of them have already been seeded with Aadhaar.
Moreover, 28 of the country’s 36 states/UTs have started online allocation of foodgrain while automation of supply chains has been completed in 18 (1.5 lakh of the country’s 5.3 lakh fair price shops are automated).
As far as expunging of duplicate ration cards is concerned, close to 80% of this has been done in five states —West Bengal, Karnataka,Maharashtra, Telangana and Rajasthan (see chart). Besides, states such as Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu too, have removed significant number of such cards.
The officials added that states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Kerala have not shown much progress in removing duplicate ration cards from their systems. Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan has requested these states to expedite the reform, saying that transparency in the functioning of PDS is key to targeted implementation of the food security law.
Under the law, over 82 crore beneficiaries get 5 kg of foodgrain per month at heavily subsidised rates: Rs 3/kg for rice, Rs 2/kg for wheat and R1/kg for coarse grains.
“Andhra Pradesh is the first state in the country to automate all of its 29,027 fair price shops, followed by Madhya Pradesh (all 22,401 FPSs), Daman & Diu (all 51 FPSs), and Tamil Nadu (all 34,723 FPSs). Considerable progress has also been achieved in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan with 17,000 (99%), 11,965 (97%) and 24,649 (96%) automated FPSs, respectively. As a result, these states/UTs have been able to reduce ghost-lifting, achieve better targeting of food subsidies by authentication of eligible beneficiaries, improvement in service delivery, weeding out bad FPSs, etc.,” the ministry of consumer affairs said in a statement recently.
“With the innovative use of technology, significant progress has been reported by states/UTs on PDS reforms in the last two years. States must focus on the reduction of inclusion and exclusion errors and Aadhaar validation so that no eligible beneficiary is denied entitlement under the PDS scheme,” Paswan said.