Bihar, Tamil Nadu lag in digitising fair price shops

fair price shops
Bihar and Tamil Nadu figure among the states lagging so far in installing electronic point of sale (ePoS) devices at fair price shops. The scheme aimed at tracking sale of food grain to genuine ration card holders on a real-time basis, an official said on Monday.

“Andhra Pradesh figures on the top in the country with 100 per cent installation of ePoS in all fair price shops in the state. This has helped in saving food subsidy of an estimated Rs 1,000 crore, while the installation pace is going very slow in Bihar,” a Union Food Ministry official said.

“Only 9,000 cards in Bihar out of over 1.54 crore ration cards have been seeded with Aadhaar cards entries. Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has sent in half a dozen reminders to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others,” the official said.

Out of two crore ration card holders in Tamil Nadu, so far only 36 lakh, that is 18 per cent, cards have been seeded with ePOS mechanism.

In an interview with IANS last month, Paswan referred to the importance of pan-India roll-out of direct benefit transfer (DBT) through Jandhan scheme but lamented that some states were not showing the requisite enthusiasm.

“Our national target is to have at least three lakh shops equipped with e-POS devices by March 2017. We are urging the states to take it seriously,” he had said.

Sources said here on Monday that so far over 1.22 lakh fair price shops, or 25 per cent of the target, have been ePoS-enabled.

Streamlining of the public distribution system and deleting of 1.62 crore bogus ration cards has so far saved around Rs 10,000 crore for the exchequer.

“There have been positive responses from states like Odisha lately as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written to the Union Food Minister and informed him the state would speed up the process,” the source said.

The direct-bank-transfer (DBT)-Aadhaar and ePoS could together reduce the Centre’s subsidy bill.

The central government allocates about 55 million tonnes of rice and wheat annually to implement the National Food Security Act, which leads to a pretty high food subsidy.

The DBT-Aadhaar and ePoS system with fair price shops across the country will help reduce the Centre’s food subsidy bill, the official said.

Besides Andhra Pradesh, the states of Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and the union territories of Chandigarh and Andaman and Nicobar have completed seeding of all the ration cards with Aadhaar.

There is also notable progress in states like Kerala — where the figure is 95 per cent. Similarly satisfactory progress has been reported from Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.

The Food Ministry has announced that 24 crore ration cards in the country have been digitised and about 56 per cent of these have been seeded with Aadhaar numbers of the beneficiaries. This is enabling holders to get highly subsidised food grain under the National Food Security Act.

A high-level committee set up the Narendra Modi government in 2014 was headed by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Shanta Kumar, who had served as Union Food Minister in the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet.

The committee had maintained that direct bank transfer mechanism with cash benefits going straight to bank accounts could save the exchequer more than Rs 30,000 crore annually.

According to a Union Finance Ministry estimate, the DBT scheme for subsidies has resulted in savings across welfare schemes, including Rs 27,000 crore in the PDS, LPG distribution and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, sources said.