One Nation One Ration Card System

The Indian Finance Minister, in her second press conference on 14 May 2020, announced measures to support various sections of the society. Among the measures she announced for migrant workers, national portability of ration cards was one of the important ones. She said that national portability would be attained through One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) System whereby migrant workers can use their existing ration cards issued in their home state to avail food grains at concessional rates at a Fair Price Shop (FPS) in any other state (not being their home state) throughout India through the Public Distribution System (PDS). 

She said that the ONORC System was on stream. Giving an update on the ONORC, she said that 67 crore people in 23 states and Union Territories out of 81 crore PDS population would be under the ONORC System by August 2020 and the entire PDS population would be onboard by March 2021.

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What is this ONORC System? Here’s a look at the ONORC System.

Public Distribution System

India’s Public Distribution System (PDS) is a massive operation that supplies food grains at concessional rate to over 81 crore people belonging to 23 crore households throughout India. The system operates under the National Food Security Act, 2013. The designated Fair Price Shops (FPS) supply the entitled quota to beneficiaries who are listed in family ration cards. The system limits the ration card holder to buy supplies only from the designated FPS which tags the ration card of the head of the household.

Though the PDS is meant for poorer sections of society, the implementation of PDS was inefficient and it acquired notoriety for a variety of reasons necessitating a review and reform of the system. There was a need to provide portability to ration card holders as a large section of ration card holders were migrant workers and they would go wherever their work took them. This created problems for them to avail food grains at FPS in places (not their home state) where they were working.

ONORC System

Accordingly, an Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) from April 2018 was launched to attain nation-wide portability of ration card holders through One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) system. In this system, migrant workers could use their existing ration cards at any FPS anywhere in India. 

One Nation One Ration Card

In order to operate the IM-PDS smoothly certain prerequisites were necessary for both FPS and the beneficiary.

  • The FPS needed to install an Electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) terminal which could authenticate the biometric identity of the beneficiary
  • The ePoS terminal should be capable of tracking the utilization of quota entitlement of the any ration card issued anywhere in the country
  • The biometric identity of the beneficiary had to be captured electronically which was possible through the Aadhaar number

Thus, the beneficiaries were identified by their Aadhaar numbers which were seeded to their respective ration cards. Since the Aadhaar captured bio-metric information of the beneficiary, the same could be used at the FPS to authenticate the identity of the beneficiary through the ePOS installed there. Once the identity of the beneficiary had been established the system had to provide the utilization of quota pertaining to the beneficiary’s ration card back home. This would be provided by using technology to track a ration card in real time.

Actually, a system already exists within states where a portal known as Annavitaran hosts distribution of food grains data through ePoS terminals for beneficiaries to use their quota not only in their home district but also in any other district of the state where a FPS has installed ePoS terminal.

Thus, technology is being employed to now link the whole country through ePoS which can authenticate beneficiaries’ identity through bio-metric verification of their Aadhaar. The same ePoS can also provide data on the utilization of quota of the ration card to which the beneficiary is seeded. Thus, it is possible to rollout the ONORC System.

Judging by the update given by the FM, it is a matter of time before the remaining states and Union Territories come on board and the full scale national rollout could take place well before March 2021.

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