Why in news?
Tamil Nadu has become the 11th State in the country to successfully undertake “One Nation One Ration Card system” reform stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance. Thus, the State has become eligible to mobilize additional financial resources of Rs.4,813 crore through Open Market Borrowings. Permission for the same was issued by the Department of Expenditure.
Tamil Nadu has now joined 10 other States namely, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh, who have completed this reform. On completion of One Nation One Ration Card system reform, these 11 States have been granted additional borrowing permission of Rs.30,709 crore by the Department of Expenditure. State wise amount of the additional borrowing permitted is as under
Objectives of One Nation One Ration Card Scheme
In simple words, the ONORC will bring the following changes:
- Reforms in the public distribution system.
- Access of food grains to each beneficiary.
- Integrating all the Indian states and UTs in the scheme by March 2021.
Salient Features of One Nation One Ration Card Scheme
- It is being implemented under the Integrated Management of PDS (IMPDS.)
- 65 crores beneficiaries are being covered under the ONORC scheme.
- 80 percent of beneficiaries registered under NFSA has been covered under the scheme.
- 25 states and UTs have been integrated into the scheme.
- 81 crores beneficiaries are reported to get the benefits of this scheme once all states/UTs will be integrated under the scheme.
- The government will come up with a helpline number to assist beneficiaries.
Rationale of ONORC
Currently, ration cardholders can avail their entitlement of subsidized food grains under the National Food Security Act, only from the designated Fair price shop (FPS) within the concerned state.
- If a beneficiary were to shift to another state, he/she would need to apply for a new ration card in the second state.
- However, the migration of the poor from rural areas to urban locations is more commonplace.
- Thus, geographical location is one of the hindrances that migrant workers face in order to claim their quote of grains and subsequently get denied their right to food.
- To address the grim state of food security in the country and combat the problem of hunger, the government has started the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ facility.
- Currently, this scheme is applicable in several states and the central government seeks to implement this across the nation by June 2020.
Benefits Emanating from ONORC
- Interoperability of Ration Card: Under the ONORC, the beneficiaries from one state can get their share of rations in other states where the ration card was originally issued.
- After the scheme gets implemented at the national level, any PDS recipient can use their ration cards at any PDS shop across the country.
- ONORC seeks to provide universal access to PDS food grains for migrant workers.
- Empowering Consumers: ONORC will also give the beneficiaries the opportunity to opt for the dealer of their choice. If any dealer misbehaves or misallocates, the beneficiary can switch to another FPS shop instantly.
- Reducing Social Discrimination: ONORC will be particularly beneficial for women and other disadvantaged groups, given how social identity (caste, class and gender) and other contextual factors (including power relations) provide a strong backdrop in accessing PDS.
- Achieving SDG: This will help achieve the target set under SDG 2: Ending hunger by 2030. Also, it will address the poor state of hunger in India, as highlighted by the Global Hunger Index, where India has been ranked 102 out of 117 countries.
- Exclusion Error: The digitisation of this PDS process, through Aadhaar-linked ration cards and smart cards, has been pushed in an effort to reduce leakages. However, there has been a rise of exclusion errors in post-Aadhaar seeding.
- There are many sections of society who still don’t have Aadhar Card, thereby depriving them of food security.
- The fears of exclusion are also applied for migrant workers, as the fingerprints of people engaged in construction labour and domestic work may change or fade and may not match with the ones entered in Aadhar.
- Logistical Issues: An FPS receives the monthly quota of products strictly in accordance with the number of people assigned to it.
- The ONORC, when fully operational, would disrupt this practice, as some FPSs may have to cater to more numbers of cards even as others cater to less, owing to migration of people.
- Lack of Data: There is no exact data on the mobility of poor households migrating to work, locating intra- and inter-state destinations and sectors employing the workers.
- Domicile-Based Social Sector Schemes: Not only PDS, most of the anti-poverty, rural employment, welfare and food security schemes were historically based on domicile-based access and restricted people to access government social security, welfare and food entitlements at their place of origin.
Steps To be Taken
- The Unorganized Sector Social Security Act, 2008, had drawn up a system of documenting informal sector workers through a system of welfare boards.
- In order to get credible data regarding the migrant workers, this must be implemented in letter and spirit.
- A dedicated e-commerce platform ONORC may resolve the challenge of logistical issues.
- Social auditing must be made mandatory to measure the performance of ONORC.
- NFSA defines food security as nutritional security.
- Therefore, portability of Integrated Child Development Services, Mid-Day Meals, immunization, health care and other facilities for poor migrant households can’t be neglected and should be made portable.
- In the longer run, the PDS system may be replaced by a fool-proof food coupon system or direct benefit transfer, targeting the poor, wherein a Below Poverty Line family can buy rice, pulses, sugar and oil from any Kirana store at the market price, by either paying fully through the coupon or by cash.