Following Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments implementing digital payment at fair price shops (FPSs), the Rajasthan government has now launched cashless transactions on a pilot basis at Rarah gram panchayat in the state’s Bharatpur district.
Next month onwards, all 4,700 people who are eligible to purchase highly subsidised foodgrain, kerosene and sugar from FPSs under various welfare schemes would have the option of paying through their RuPay debit cards provided by state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB).
According to an official with the civil supplies department of Rajasthan, the facility to pay using RuPay debit cards was been formally launched few days ago on an experimental basis. Next month onwards all the beneficiaries under programmes such National Food Security Act (NFSA) and others would be encouraged to buy monthly provisions from two FPSs located in the gram panchayat using debit cards.
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PNB has commenced distribution of RuPay debit cards to the beneficiaries in the gram panchayat and is expected to be completed by next month. “We will expand the facilities of cashless transaction at PDS outlets to other locations subsequently,” an official from the Rajasthan state civil supplies department told FE.
As per the norm, in Rarah gram panchayat around 199 quintal of wheat, 2.5 quintal of sugar and 3,800 litre kerosene is distributed through FPSs monthly to beneficiaries belonging to the 892 families. PNB has already installed two Point of Sale (PoS) machines at FPSs besides providing current accounts facilities for the owner of FPSs so that funds are transferred directly to their bank accounts for selling commodities.
Most of the women in Rajasthan have bank accounts under a financial inclusion programme — Bhamashah launched in 2008. Under the programme, bank accounts and Bhamashah card had been given for direct benefit transfer (DBT) under the various social sector schemes to women’bank accounts. “We will ensure all men and women above 18 years of age open accounts and get ATM cards in the next couple of weeks in the gram panchayat,” an official said.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan along with Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, has also installed ePoS machines at all their FPS outlets. Food ministry officials said ePOS-induced transparency, curtails the scope for manipulation of purchase records and diversion of PDS grains to the open market. Rajasthan has already installed ePoS machines for tracking the sale of foodgrain at all the 25,000-odd FPSs which cater to around one crore beneficiaries.
The Rajasthan government during last one year has given a facelift to 5,000-odd fair price shops in the state through collaboration with the country’s largest retailer Future Group. Around 150-300 FMCG products are being sold through their outlets renamed as Annapurna Bhandars. The state government plans to open another 20,000 such shops in the next few years.
Earlier, the PDS stores in Rajasthan used to store only a limited number of products such as wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene.