Having found that more than a tenth of the ration cards in the state are fraud, the Rajasthan government has decided to cancel them. The identification of these redundant cards was with the help of the electronic point of sale (ePoS) machines installed at all the 25,000-odd fair price shops (FPSs) in the state over the past year. The ePoS machines allow real-time monitoring of sale of foodgrains at the shops.
Rajasthan’s success in eliminating undeserved beneficiaries from the public distribution system (PDS) augurs well for the Centre, which has taken several steps to reduce the wasteful component of its subsidy outgo in the last two years. Since 2013, 2.33 crore bogus/duplicate ration cards have been eliminated, with potential savings of Rs 14,000 crore to the exchequer.
Rajasthan is one five states to have installed e-PoS machines in all FPSs, the other four being Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In the coming months, these and other states are also expected to get rid of the redundant ration cards through Aadhaar-seeded PDS transactions and e-PoS-enabled tracking.
The government is set to make Aadhaar mandatory for receiving subsidised foodgrains under PDS.
According to Subodh Agarwal, principal secretary at Rajasthan’s food and civil supplies department, the state government had given time till the end of this month to those ration card holders who have been not collecting highly subsidised foodgrains over the last five months. “We have decided to block some 11 lakh ration cards, the holders of which have not claimed provisions for the past five months, of around one crore ration card holders in the state,” Agarwal said.
State government officials have been verifying the whereabouts of the ‘missing beneficiaries’ to understand the reasons behind their not lifting of provisions under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). “It is impossible that the large number of missing beneficiaries are entirely due to deaths/migration etc,” said an official. As per the directives from the Centre, each of the 4.2 crore NFSA beneficiaries in the state consisting of 53% of the urban and 69% rural population are entitled to getting 5 kg of wheat at Rs 2 per kg monthly under the food security legislation.
Food ministry officials said that ePoS-induced transparency curtails the scope for manipulation of purchase records and diversion of PDS grains to the open market. Agarwal also said the Rajasthan government had removed 13 lakh fake ration cards from the entitlement list in the last one year and the state government would continue to carry out reforms in PDS so that only the deserving people get subsidised grains.
At present, 1.78 lakh ePoS machines are at FPSs across 21 states and UTs, totalling 5.27 lakh FPSs.