In a bid to curb pilferage of foodgrains in the public distribution system (PDS), 3 lakh electronic point of sale (ePOS) devices would be installed at fair price shops (FPS) by end-March 2017, food minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday said.
“About 80,000 FPS have already been provided with bio-metric ePOS devices for distributing subsidised foodgrains. By March 2019, all the ration shops in the country will have these devices to make PDS totally leak proof,” Pawan said after launching FCI depot online initiatives. There are around 5 lakh ration shops which handles foodgrains distributed to poor families under PDS.
He said 45% of 24.6 crore ration cards have been seeded with Aadhaar numbers and during the next two years, most of the ration card holders would be seeded with Aadhaar. The ePOS devices that track the sale of foodgrains to actual cardholders on a real-time basis would complement the efforts to cut pilferage, allowing significant savings in food subsidy, even as the implementation of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) to credit the subsidy to the bank accounts of the intended beneficiaries is still at an early stage.
Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have almost completed ePOS installations, while others like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are catching up. States with large poor populations like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha have, however, yet to make any headway in n equipping their FPSs with ePOS devices.
On the online integration of FCI godowns, Paswan said by July this year operations of all the 553 odd FCI depots will be online and by March, 2017 remaining depots which include Central Warehousing Corporation, State Warehousing Corporations and hired ones from private parties would be put online.
The purpose of online depot computerisation is to discontinue manual entry of foodgrains stocks in each of FCI’s depot for eliminating possibility of diversion of grains. The corporation has already completed the pilot run of the software in 36 depots located across the country during the last couple of months.
Under the online projects, all the depots managers and allied staff are trained with handling tablets for entering the stock positions in the real time basis.
Once all the depots owned by FCI are put in a single online platform, the rest of the 1,288 godowns hired by FCI from Central Warehousing Corporation, state warehousing corporations, etc. would be added to the platform probably by the end of current fiscal.
“The automation of the entire process from entry and exit of foodgrains at FCI depots would bring total transparency in the working of FCI. This will improve efficiency in operations of depots,” Paswan said.
At present, there is computerisation at FCI depots to some extent through which fortnightly grain stocks positions are generated. However, for all other operations from loading to unloading of foodgrains is carried out manually.
The high-level committee on FCI restructuring chaired by former food minister Shanta Kumar last year had recommended end-to-end computerisation of the entire food management system, starting from procurement from farmers to stocking, movement and finally, distribution through the Targeted Public Distribution System. FCI handles around 55–60 million tonne (MT) of foodgrains, mostly consisting of rice and wheat annually.