New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme, which will allow migrant workers and their families access to PDS benefits from any fair price shop in the country, is another scheme that it has deftly appropriated from its predecessor, the Congress-led UPA government.
A task force led by the then UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani had in 2011 proposed to link ration cards of all beneficiaries with Aadhaar and connect the data to one server.
The project never took off due to stringent opposition from the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), said a retired senior agriculture ministry official, who was coordinating between the ministry and NAC on the issue.
“Back then, the anti-Aadhaar lobby in the NAC opposed it tooth and nail, resulting in the scheme being put on the backburner,” the retired officer, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint.
The officer added that the One Nation, One Ration Card is not a new scheme like Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made it sound on Thursday. “But I don’t see any harm if the Modi government gives it a new name and launches it as their original idea. At the end of the day, it will benefit the poor by plugging leakages in the public distribution system (PDS).”
Once implemented across India, the One Nation One Ration Card scheme will ensure that PDS beneficiaries can lift food grains that they are entitled to under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, from any fair price shop in the country. The NFSA covers over 80 crore people.
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When was the idea first mooted?
The idea to make ration cards portable was first mooted by the Nilekani-led task force way back in 2011. The task force’s mandate was to come up with an IT strategy for PDS and an implementable solution for the direct transfer of subsidy for food and kerosene.
Constituted by the finance ministry in February 2011, the task force submitted its report to the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government in October 2011.
The report suggested that full nationwide portability of benefits under PDS could be ensured by interoperability of ration cards and fair price shops across the country.
The committee also recommended the constitution of a National Information Utility, which was to be known as Public Distribution System Network, for facilitating the One Nation One Ration Card by implementing and operating the IT infrastructure for PDS.
This was to be achieved by using effective computerisation by ensuring large scale, speed, cost-effectiveness, and quality in operations for PDS interoperability across the country.
Scheme had a June 2020 deadline earlier
Sitharaman, while announcing the second tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore package under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, said the government will implement the One Nation One Ration Card scheme across the country by March 2021.
The scheme was first launched last year by Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan who had set a deadline of June 2020.
To start with, it was made operational on a pilot basis in 12 states.
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