The government’s thrust on Aadhaar seeding of ration cards and installation of electronic Point of Sale (ePOS) machines at the fair price shops (FPSs) have been gradually yielding results. Food ministry sources told FE that around 42 lakh beneficiaries under NFSA out of 1.5 crore in Haryana have not turned up for collections of their provisions in the last couple of months and this is mainly due to ePOS-induced transparency, which curtailed the scope for manipulation of purchase records and diversion of PDS grains to the open market. In Haryana, 91% of more than 29 lakh ration cards (around 5 NFSA beneficiaries per card) have been seeded with their respective Aadhaar numbers while most of 9,600 FPSs have ePOS machines installed. “The Haryana government would carry out survey to identify reasons behind a large number of people not turning up for buying highly subsidised foodgrains under food security legislation,” a food ministry official said.
Earlier, about 70 lakh of the 4.2 crore identified NFSA beneficiaries in Rajasthan did not lift highly subsidised foodgrain over the last couple of months. Like Haryana, Rajasthan has also completed Aadhaar seeding of ration cards and most of the FPSs have ePOS-enabled. Meanwhile, food minister Ram Vilas Paswal said that the states must speed up Aadhaar seeding of ration cards and installation of ePOS machines at FPSs by December 31, 2017. Over 2,20,000 of the country’s 5,27,000 ration shops have e-PoS machines that are used to check the identity of ration card owners – that’s 42.3% of the total as compared to a mere 5,835 shops when the NDA government came to power in May 2014. A total of over 18 crore ration cards, or 78% of the total, have been seeded with Aadhaar – this was just around 2% in May 2014.
Since 2013, 2.48 crore ration cards have been weeded out as part of the government’s effort to identify the beneficiaries under NFSA. Although there has been annual saving of `14,000 crore because of elimination of ghost ration cards, food ministry officials said that new beneficiaries are added into those entitled for highly subsidised foodgrains under NFSA.
The government has decided to continue with highly subsidised rates at which rice (`3 per kg), wheat (`2 per kg) and coarse grains (`1 per kg) are supplied to beneficiaries under NFSA for another one year. The Food Corporation of India incurs a subsidy of `21.1 per kg for wheat and `29.6 per kg for rice for supplying grains under NFSA. With the food subsidy in the current fiscal estimated at `1.45 lakh crore (NFSA has already been rolled out in all the 36 states and 6 UTs), compared with `1.3 lakh crore (revised estimate) for last year, the government is keen to bolster direct transfer of subsidies to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. Direct benefit transfer (DBT) in PDS, however, is still at an early stage; three UTs — Chandigarh, Puducherry and Dadar and Nagar Haveli — have implemented DBT on a pilot basis.