The government plans to allow all ration cardholders to buy their quotas of wheat and rice from any fair price shop of their choice anywhere in the country, starting from April. The food ministry has finalised an action plan as 56% of the ration shops have started using electronic point of sale (ePOS) devices. Many states have committed to complete the installation and implementation of the machines in the next two months, a government official said. The government may launch inter-state mobility in PDS soon. Once this is done, anyone having a ration card which is digitised can buy his family ration from any fair price shop (FPS) in the country, including outside the state where it is issued. Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the Centre provides rice at `3/kg, wheat `2/kg and coarse cereals `1/kg to about 81 crore people in the country. The allocation has been fixed at 5 kg of foodgrains per person every month, except for some very poor families (under Antodaya Anna Yojana) who continue to receive 35 kg of grains every month.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley has already announced in the Budget for 2018-19 a health insurance scheme for 50 crore people who will be re-imbursed up to `5 lakh for hospitalisation. Under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana 30.71 crore bank accounts have been opened, of which 18.05 crore are in rural and semi-urban areas. “This is a novel concept which technology has made possible. By using the ePOS device, each transaction is getting recorded. No state will be able to complain if people having ration cards issued by another state also buy foodgrain anywhere, as the Centre will allocate grains as per the offtake,” the official said. Of 5.27 lakh ration shops in the country, more than 2.95 lakh have been using the ePOS machine and recording the distribution data, which is connected to a central server. The Centre has started monitoring the distribution of rice and wheat from last month in case of the FPS which are using ePOS.
Initially, the portability will be available only where an ePOS device is installed, but will be gradually extended to all ration shops once there is 100% coverage of the technology. While states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have 100% installation of ePOS devices in their FPS, many states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana have more than 95% and are expected to complete the process in the next two months. Even Uttar Pradesh, where ePOS machines are installed in 13,154 out of 81,003 ration shops in 75 districts, has assured the Centre of completing 100% coverage before April, the sources said.
By Prabhudatta Mishra