- The Public Distribution System (PDS) of India provides access to subsidized foodgrains etc. to those with Ration cards.
- Till recently, a beneficiary could access the subsidized foodgrains only at his locally assigned Fair Price Shop (Ration shop).
- This was problematic for intra-state and inter-state migrants.
One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC):
- The One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) initiative was launched by the Indian government is for enabling portability of PDS benefits, both within the state and inter-state.
- This is a gamechanger initiative.
- The programme empowers the beneficiary—in this instance, the poor and not so well-off. It will empower the migrants as the benefits travel with them.
- Meanwhile, the Fair Price Shop owners will find their assumed powers cut, as beneficiaries can go to any fair price shop they like.
- It will also ensure that only legit beneficiaries access these subsidies, and also reduce wrongful exclusion.
- It will help prevent pilferage and diversion (as stock movements can be monitored in real time).
It was a massive and difficult project to implement:
- Had to overcome resistance from lobbies:
- The reform has its basis in the 2011 Nandan Nilekani task force on direct cash transfers of subsidies, whose ambit was later expanded to include creating an information technology (IT) strategy for the PDS. The findings of the task force were submitted in October 2011.
- Yet, it has taken almost nine years for this reform to become a reality.
- There was lot of political resistance as the scheme was milked by many powerful groups through huge number of ineligible beneficiaries on the books.
- In the five years till 2018, about 30 million beneficiaries were found to be ineligible and removed.
- Staggering number of beneficiaries:
- The sheer number of the beneficiaries to be serviced is staggering.
- The list of PDS beneficiaries is estimated at about 750 million—almost two-thirds of India’s population—and spread out across states and Union territories.
- In comparision, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Network, the IT backbone powering the GST infrastructure, serves about 13 million taxpayers.
- The IT backbone powering this is the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System.
Uttar Pradesh recently implemented the ONORC system:
- On 2 October, 2020, Uttar Pradesh completed the reform process in the public distribution system or PDS, to implement the One Nation One Ration Card system.
- Its sheer size—the largest state with a population of 200 million—brings the country that much closer to implementing this key economic reform.
- With this, the project has attained a critical mass.
This also creates a huge data network:
- Creating a One Nation One Ration Card system requires all the beneficiary details to be available online.
- This creates a massive data network.
Data security and privacy must be ensured:
- In this context, ensuring data security and privacy becomes highly important.
- An important move in this regard is the promised privacy law that is being made, with the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 is currently being examined by the joint parliamentary committee.
- The benefits of the One Nation One Ration Card are huge.
- And once the privacy concerns are addressed, the huge database, along with the one built for cooking gas scheme, will have transformational impact on governance and welfare.