‘One ration card’, a welcome move

ration shop

The “one nation, one ration card” scheme launched by the central government is a welcome plan to ensure that the benefits of the public distribution system reach the maximum number of people irrespective of their place of residence. Union Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan announced recently that the scheme will help people anywhere in the country to avail subsidised food under the National Food Security Act and that it will come into force within a year. It is being implemented as part of the Modi government’s 100-day agenda and will ensure that the citizens’ right to food will not suffer when they migrate from their home state. The minister has said that 10 states already offer portability of ration cards and others will be able to do it soon. 

The scheme will benefit migrant workers most, and they constitute a significant part of the workforce in every state. They are vulnerable and most of them are denied many of their rights, including access to the public distribution system (PDS). Hopefully, the scheme will give them the food security promised by the law. Others, too, who move from state to state because of change of jobs or for other reasons, will benefit. However, a migrant cardholder will be able to avail only the subsidised food quota under the food security act and not all benefits that individual states offer to their residents through the PDS. The scheme may be taken as part of the reforms in the PDS, which will now get fully digitised and come under an integrated management system. This should help to curb corruption, for which the PDS is known. Most of the ration shops in the country have Point of Sale (PoS) machines and most ration cards are linked to Aadhaar. They will now be linked to a single server. The PDS is also being integrated with the storage facilities online to ensure transparency and speed in operations. 

It is important that the scheme is implemented efficiently. Many PDS reform plans have failed in the past. The benefits of the system have often been denied to large numbers of people. Considering the leakages and other vulnerabilities of the system, it should be implemented with caution and care. The scheme has been criticised as a violation of the federal system because a central scheme is being implemented over the PDS, which comes under the states’ jurisdiction. The DMK has opposed it on this ground. But it would be wrong to charge, as some have, that the scheme is intended to encourage people from other states to settle down in the southern states or to impose uniform food habits in the country. 

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