The biggest beneficiary of this will be those migrant labourers who move to other States to seek better job opportunities. The scheme will ensure their food security and they can access the Public Distribution System from any PDS shop across the country. This will definitely benefit millions of migrant labourers in Mumbai.
However, there are many challenges and obstacles in the way of ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme which question its feasibility in the country. There are 29 states and 7 union territories in India and every state has its own rules for Public Distribution System (PDS). If ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ is implemented, it will further boost corruption in an already corrupted Public Distribution System.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution will implement ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme. Under the Integrated Management of PDS (IMPDS), people can avail their share of food grain from any district across the country. It is notable that IMPDS is already operational in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Tripura. So, migrant labourers of Maharashtra have no more benefits in the state. Means, at present migrant labourers from Marathwada, Vidarbha and other regions of Maharashtra are enjoying this in Mumbai and other metros of the state.
On being asked about ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme, senior Congress leader PL Punia told Afternoon Voice, “All these terms coined by the Modi government have become jumla — ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’, ‘One Nation, One Poll’, ‘One Nation, One Leader’. They have no practical knowledge. Suppose that a labourer migrates to any city leaving his family at a village, how will he receive his ration in the city and his family’s ration at the village? Similarly, different states have different PDS rates. Rice is just one rupee per kilo in Chhattisgarh while it is Rs 3 per kilo in other states. How will the centre tackle all these? The feasibility of this scheme is under question.”
It is worth mentioning that ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ will increase the woes of the common man and, the middlemen and corrupt PDS shop owners will exploit them. Even Aadhaar cards have been insufficient to check irregularities in the PDS. Many ration shop owners under the PDS allegedly replace the Aadhaar number of beneficiaries with people known to them and thousands of fake Aadhaar cards are used to withdraw food grains of ration. According to experts, any revelation of pilferage of ration is the tip of the iceberg. How this is happening when the government claims to have connected the Aadhaar numbers of genuine beneficiaries with the Public Distribution System.
An official of the Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Protection Department said, “We have no detailed information about ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme. Only the officer who attended the meeting in New Delhi can give any information.”
Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan chaired a meeting on ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme recently. Food secretaries and other officials of state governments, Food Corporation of India (FCI), Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and State Warehousing Corporations (SWCs) attended this meeting in the national capital Delhi.
As per the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, the scheme is aimed at providing freedom to beneficiaries. They will not be tied to one PDS shop and it will reduce their dependence on shop owners and curtail corruption. The biggest beneficiaries will be migrant workers who move to other states to seek better job opportunities. In the meeting, the other states assured that they would implement IMPDS as early as possible.
Social activist Mayank Gandhi asserted, “It will be a very good scheme. With the help of ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’, migrant labourers of another state can avail medical facility Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana because ration card is compulsory for this scheme.”
Ram Vilas Paswan said, “The target is to complete the formalities of the scheme in one year. The availability of PoS (Point of Sale) machines needs to be ensured at all PDS shops to implement the scheme. PoS machines are available at all PDS shops in various states, like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, but 100 per cent availability is required to provide the benefit across the country. Around 78 per cent of Fair Price, Shops has so far been automated by installing electronic PoS devices.”
He further said that information technology should be used right from the time of purchase of food grains until distribution to increase the overall efficiency of the PDS and curb corruption. Under the Public Distribution System, there are 81 crore beneficiaries. Every year, 612 lakh tonnes of food grains are stored in warehouses of FCI, CWC, SWCs and private godowns for distribution.
BJP spokesperson Prof. Suhas Farande said, “One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme will be beneficial for migrants from Maharashtra to other states. They will immediately get ration at their new abode. Also, this scheme will check double or multiple ration cards of a person.”
Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “This scheme should be welcomed as migrant labourers will be benefited by it. But the government should concentrate on issuing ration cards to those who are eligible and they have not any ration card. As far as corruption in the PDS is concerned, only Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan can reply how it will check irregularities.”