After installing electronic point of sale (ePoS) machines at all the 17,000 fair price shops (FPSs) in the state, the Gujarat government has decided to provide a host of services ranging from rail or bus ticket bookings, recharge of mobile phones, DTH television recharge and payment of LIC premiums through these outlets. According to an official with the Gujarat food and civil supplies department, following the completion of seeding of Aadhaar cards of the 72 lakh ration cards in the state, the state government has tied up with the Common Services Centre (CSC), launched by ministry of electronics and information technology, to dispense assorted services through FPSs, which have conventionally been the outlets only for selling foodgrains at subsidised prices.
Thanks to an alliance with the Kishore Biyani-promoted Big Bazaar retail chain, the Rajasthan government has for the last few months been selling fast-moving consumer goods via the state’s 5,000-odd ration shops.
In Gujarat, the services that could be availed by citizens through these CSCs will include farmers’ registration for various government schemes, air tickets booking, registration for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, life certificate for pensioners, etc. “Most of our FPSs have either have desktop or laptops. Besides, most of the beneficiaries under the Food Security Act are paying through Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS) which ensures cashless transaction,” the official told FE.
The official added that currently, CSC is upgrading the software and training is being provided to those who run FPSs so that citizens could avail of the additional services within a month or so. In a recent communication to the food ministry, MK Das, principal secretary, department of food and civil supplies, Gujarat, had stated: “We are in advance dialogue with the state road transport corporation for issue of monthly passes for the students and other passengers and electricity board for payment of electricity bills through FPSs. Inclusion of these will further make PDS shops more viable and citizen-friendly.”
Recently, food minister Ram Vilas Paswan urged states to create cashless transaction facilities at FPSs using technologies like AePS, RuPay debit card payment, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, Unified Payment Interface and e-wallets. However, the food ministry official said AePS is a preferred mode of cashless transaction as it allows transaction using beneficiaries’ Aadhaar authentication using point of sale (PoS) machines.
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At present, only around 27,000 FPSs out of 5.27 lakh in the country have cashless transaction facilities. Besides Gujarat (14,160), such FPSs are mostly located in Andhra Pradesh (20,931), Madhya Pradesh (1058), Chhattisgarh (523), Telangana (162), etc.
Under the AePS, the beneficiaries under NFSA carry only Aadhaar cards for getting their foodgrains in Gujarat. “The beneficiary provides their Aadhaar number, select her bank’s name and gives thumb impressions while the desired amount is debited from bank accounts of beneficiaries for payments,” a state government official said.
In all, 1.77 lakh FPSs have PoS machines. “States should immediately target beneficiaries under NFSA in urban areas and then spreading out to rural areas for ensuring quick transition to cashless transactions by end of March 2017,” Paswan recently told FE.