Integrated public distribution system: A panacea for Odisha’s PDS ills!

The most awaited PDS reform will not only eliminate the virus of ghost cards but also put a stop on FPS owner's discretionary powers. A migrant labour family from Odisha can also avail Re 1/kilo rice from anywhere in India

Bhubaneswar: With Odisha Government claiming to have equipped all the 13,306 Fair Price Shops (FPS) in the State with Point -of-Sale (PoS) machines, a 100 per cent digitization of ration cards and an online PDS procurement system in place, the only minor glitch for the State to implement the Centre’s ‘one nation, one ration card’ is 100 per cent Aadhar seeding of ration cards.

However, as the Centre has extended the timeline till June 30, 2020, a cent per cent Aadhar seeding seems no big hurdle for Odisha as currently the Aadhar seeding in the State has touched over 86 per cent.

As the Centre has allocated Rs 127 crore to put in place an Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) in 2018-20,  Odisha has to adhere to the pre-requisite norms of 100 per cent Aadhar seeding of ration cards, provisioning of PoS machines to all PDS shops and online procurement and transfer of PDS commodities.

The objective of the NDA government is to ensure portability of the PDS in the country. IM-PDS will integrate PDS portals of Centre and States. Post implementation, beneficiaries will emerge as the winner.

For instance, if a beneficiary from any part of Odisha moves out to another State for jobs, the beneficiary after giving an application to the Odisha government about his/her new destination, can avail the Re 1 kilo rice scheme from the new State.

How this could be done? The guidelines of the IM -PDS mandates the Odisha government, as any State government, to act within a stipulated timeframe and transfer the due PDS benefits of the beneficiary to the desired State of stay of beneficiary.

According to Justice Wadhwa Committee that looked into the entire gamut of PDS in Odisha, the system has glaring loopholes like duplication of ration cards, FPS owners deliberately keeping shops closed to deny many eligible beneficiaries of PDS benefits etc. The Committee in its report to SC in 2010 had reported Odisha saddling with 2.5 lakh ghost cards.

But till 2017-18, the State Food and Civil Supplies department had not intimated to the Union ministry of Food Supply and Consumer Affairs regarding the deletion of total bogus cards from the PDS database in the State.

Unlike Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, the State has not adopted an integrated PDS management for the State. The deserving beneficiaries couldn’t avail the PDS if they moved out from one district to other or were not allowed to take ration from other FPS.

Post the implementation of central IM-PDS, a FPS owner can no longer adopt the discretionary power of PDS distribution. Moreover, the inter district portability will banish the vice of ghost cards from the State.