A whopping 7 million people in Rajasthan, who bought their rations till as late as a few months ago, seem to have disappeared. With the state government installing electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices in all ration shops—so that those buying rations can be immediately authenticated against the Aadhaar database—these 7 million people, if they ever existed, probably felt they would be found using fake ration cards and so decided not to buy rations from fair price shops anymore. Andhra Pradesh, another state which has all its ration cards seeded with Aadhaar numbers and with 100% ePoS, had a similar experience.
It had 4.53 crore ration cards which reduced to 3.86 crore once there was Aadhaar-seeding. It could have fallen further once 100% ePoS was achieved—with ePoS, at least one person in a family has to personally come to the ration shop to collect the ration—but those numbers are not known. While similar numbers are probably being reported by other states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh which have 100% ePoS, the central government managed to knock off 3.5 crore people from the LPG list when a similar exercise was done.
While the benefits from this already run into tens of thousands of crore rupees every year, what is shocking is the poor progress of ePoS across the country. Just 29% of all ration cards are ePoS-enabled—why this should be so, given the obvious benefits in stopping theft, is not clear. Part of the reason could be political. Tiny Delhi, which has all of 2,269 ration shops has managed to install ePoS devices in a mere 34 shops—the reason for this can only be political.
But how do you explain a BJP state like Haryana—only 20 of its 9,462 rations shops are ePoS-enabled—making such little progress? It is not even a very large state in comparison with, say, a Maharashtra where a mere 93 of 51,596 shops have ePoS devices—but, given Maharashtra is BJP-ruled, surely prime minister Narendra Modi can give directions to the chief minister to ensure this is done quickly? When even BJP-ruled states are in no great hurry to implement ePoS, it is difficult to convince other laggards like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha—they have 0, 600 and 32 ePoS shops, respectively—to get their act together?