One nation, one ration card: Nandan Nilekani’s digital PDS scheme being carried forward by Modi govt

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May 14, 2020 6:58 PM

The government has unveiled its plans for the ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme amid the coronavirus crisis as it looks to make the lot of migrant workers better, carrying on the digital PDS dream put forward by Aadhaar-architect Nandan Nilekani.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said that the government will provide free food grains for an estimated eight crore migrant workers for next two months at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore.

The government has unveiled its plans for the ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme amid the coronavirus crisis as it looks to make the lot of migrant workers better, carrying on the digital PDS dream put forward by Aadhaar-architect Nandan Nilekani. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said that the government will provide free food grains for an estimated eight crore migrant workers for next two months at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore. Sitharaman was announcing the second tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic stimulus package unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

To make it possible for migrant workers to get ration from any depot in the country, the government has introduced the ‘one nation, one ration card’ concept, by enabling national portability on ration cards. The move, Nirmala Sitharaman said, is an effort in leveraging tech-driven systems, which was one of the five pillars outlined by Narendra Modi to make India a self-reliant economic powerhouse. ‘One nation, One ration card’ scheme is expected to benefit about 67 crore beneficiaries of 23 Indian states by August. While work is done to already cover 83% of the PDS-population under ‘one nation, one ration card’, the government plans to complete it by March 2021.

Earlier, Nandan Nilekani had written to the government to use Aadhar or UID (unique identification) to plug the leakages in the PDS (public distribution system), and said that all fair price shops must be digitally connected. The government has further announced that those migrant workers who do not have either a central or state PDS card, will get five kilogram of grains per person and 1 kilogram of ‘chana’ for two months. “By March 2021, 100% coverage under ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ will be done,” FM Nirmala Sitharaman said in her second media briefing in a week.

The concept of ‘one nation, one ration card’ hasn’t been broached for the first time. In fact, a pilot project for the inter-state portability of ration cards between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and between Maharashtra and Gujarat was rolled out last year. For now, ration cards are issued by state governments and the beneficiaries are only able to procure food grains only from the designated ration shops within the concerned state. The latest announcement aims to resolve this problem and help migrant workers of the country.

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