All you need to know about One Nation, One Card Scheme

All you need to know about the One Nation, One Card Scheme

Representative image: iStock Photo

The Covid-19 outbreak in India and the ensuing lockdown threw spotlight once again on the rung that became the face of the compounding misery – the migrant labourers.

One scheme that promised easing at least some of their agony was the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ plan.

The apex court had even asked the central government to consider if the scheme could 'temporarily' be adopted during the lockdown since it hadn’t been implemented in its entirety.  As of August 2020, 20 states and Union Territories have been brought under the ambit of the scheme which was supposed to be implemented across the nation by June 30, 2020.

What is the One Nation, One Ration Card scheme?

The ‘One nation, one ration card’ was undertaken by the Department of Food and Public Distribution launched to ensure nationwide portability of the ration card.

Part of the larger picture of the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IMPDS), the aim was to ensure that the beneficiaries get their share of benefits regardless of their geographical location as per the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 that covers about 75 crore people. Under the scheme, the beneficiaries could buy subsidised foodgrains from any of the 5,00,000 odd Fair Price Shops (FPS) across the country with the same ration card.

Launched by the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in 2019, the scheme was supposed to be implemented at part of Modi government’s 100-day agenda.  Paswan had claimed that the scheme would mostly cover migrant labourers and daily wagers.

The project started off on pilot mode in four states  --  Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (cluster 1) and Gujarat and Maharashtra (cluster 2) --  in a phased manner from August  1, 2019.

Alongside those four states, seven other states -- Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tripura – began testing intra-portability of the ration card, meaning ration could be collected from any PDS located within these states.

So far, ration card portability has been enabled in 20 states and UTs -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh, with Odisha, Sikkim and Mizoram joining the list on June 1.

"By next June 30, 2020, 'one nation, one ration card' should be implemented without fail in the entire country. We have written letters to the state government to fast-track the implementation of this system," Paswan had told reporters in June 2019.

The timeline was further updated in May 2020 when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while announcing free foodgrains for migrants said, “By March 2021, 100 per cent coverage under 'One Nation One Ration Card' would be done.”

How the scheme works:

Paswan had told the Lok Sabha in December 2019 that the scheme, applicable through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) initiative, would be made available after biometric/Aadhaar authentication on ePoS (electronic Point of Sale) devices that would be set up at the Fair Price Shops.

The initiative would be available only through the FPSs having fully online ePoS devices, he added.

This makes e-biometric authentication of beneficiaries and state-level portability important for the scheme to work.

The beneficiaries can then access their entitled quota with the help of either their ration card number or the Aadhaar number at any FPS dealer in India. This would eliminate the need to share the ration or Aadhaar card with dealers for the benefits making fingerprints or iris-based identification for Aadhaar authentication sufficient at the shops.

"This system would largely benefit the numerous migrant beneficiaries such as labourers, daily wagers, blue-collar workers etc. who frequently change their place of dwelling in search of employment or for other reasons across the country," he had said. 

Covid-19 rears its ugly head

Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said that the scheme had not yet picked up due to the lack of awareness and suspension of biometric machines with Covid-19 in the picture now.

“Public distribution system (PDS) shop owners have been asked to keep hand sanitizer which the beneficiary can use, after and before using their finger for biometric identification," Pandey said.

(With inputs from PTI)