State withholds reforms in fair price shops

State withholds reforms in fair price shops

Awaits similar plan from Centre to come into force

State withholds reforms in fair price shops

Consumers who were promised transparency and accountability at fair price shops will have to wait a little longer

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A proposal of the food and the civil supplies department of making it mandatory for fair price shops to equip themselves with multi-utility hand-held equipment to keep track of transactions, capture the biometrics of beneficiaries, print bills among others has been put on hold. The reason:The State government is anticipating the announcement of a central scheme that will bear half the cost of the devices.

The department last year had announced that all fair price shops will have to have portable point-of-sale (POS) multi-utility devices to check irregularities in the public distribution system.

“The proposal that all fair price shops should have POS has not been scrapped. But we decided to wait for some time before implementing the same as we have received information that the  central government will announce a similar scheme soon. Under the central scheme, there is a proposal that the fair price shop owners will get 50 per cent reimbursement for the devices they purchase,” Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Dinesh Gundu Rao said on Monday. 

There are around 21,000 fair price shops in the State catering to around 1.1 crore households having ration cards. Each device is likely to cost around Rs 14,000. The minister pointed out that the State government had earlier planned to provide subsidy to the fair price shop owners to purchase the devices.

The devices need to have features like digital camera, GPRS with 3G, two smart card readers, touch screen, thermal paper printers, chargeable battery, WiFi and Bluetooth compatibility and will have to work on an Android platform. The device will need to have scanners to capture the biometrics of beneficiaries, print bills and send stock details to the central server of the food and civil supplies department. The minister said the government had earlier planned to procure the devices from a single supplier.

“There are now indications that the Centre is willing to provide reimbursement to devices purchased from any supplier as long as its specifications are met. A clear picture will emerge after the Centre comes out with its scheme,” Dinesh Gundu Rao said.

Another proposal of the department to have a cell at the Food and Civil Supplies Corporation for dissemination of information about price trends in a bid to track black marketeers and hoarders has remained a non-starter. The cell was supposed to be set up with the support of National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX). “We were planning to have a network that would provide the price trends of commodities at the retail level. However, there were some technical issues,” the minister said.

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