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SC on food for migrant labourers without ration cards


The Supreme Court asked the Centre how it intended to take food to crores of migrant labourers who have no ration cards.


GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Ration Cards in India
  2. Advent of Aadhaar
  3. National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013
  4. What is the one ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system?
  5. Since when has the One Nation, One Ration Card System been in the works?
  6. How will the system of ration card portability work?

About Ration Cards in India

  • Ration cards are an official document ISSUED BY STATE GOVERNMENTS in India to households that are eligible to purchase subsidised food grain from the Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) while also serving as a common form of identification for many Indians.
  • Under the NFSA, all state governments in India have to identify households that are eligible for purchasing subsidised food grain from the Public Distribution System and provide them with ration cards.
  • There are two types of ration cards under NFSA:
    • Priority Household (PHH) ration cards are issued to households that meet the eligibility criteria set by their state government. Each priority household is entitled to 5 kilograms of food grain per member per month.
    • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration cards are issued to “poorest of poor” households. Each AAY household is entitled to 35 kilograms of food grain per month.

Issues with PDS through Ration card

Many problems with the PDS ration system exist.

  • There are millions of ineligible and fraudulent ration cards
  • Millions of poor families have no ration card
  • PDS shop owners in collusion with government officials divert the subsidized food supply and petroleum to the black market
  • Card numbers are inflated by those held under false or duplicate names, in the names of dead or fake people.

Advent of Aadhaar

Aadhaar-enabled beneficiary

  • The bank accounts and ration cards of eligible beneficiaries are linked to their Aadhaar numbers.
  • A bank account can be enabled as AeBA by seeding (linking) it with an Aadhaar number.
  • Seeding makes mapping information stored on the NPCI payment gateway that facilitates the subsidy payment.
  • Seeding helps identify genuine and eligible beneficiaries and prevents duplicate and non-existent persons from registering.

Aadhaar-enabled DBT

  • Aadhaar-enabled service delivery (AeSD) prevents corruption in retail by directly crediting benefit money into the beneficiary’s bank account; this is called Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
  • It eliminates middlemen and fraudulent, ineligible beneficiaries. In this way, Aadhaar saves billions of rupees of public money annually and enables poor people access to social security benefits.

Aadhaar-enabled eligibility check

  • Applicant eligibility is checked by comparing the service delivery database with other databases.
  • For example, PDS kerosene eligibility is checked by comparing the PDS database with the LPG database.
  • The subsidy on kerosene allocation is reduced if the LPG subsidy is detected for that household.

National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013

  • The objective of the National Food Security Act, 2013 is to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • The Act provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.
  • The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.
  • The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
  • The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Besides meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, such women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
  • Children upto 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards.
  • In case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.
  • The Act also contains provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels.
  • Separate provisions have also been made in the Act for ensuring transparency and accountability.

What is the one ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system?

  • Under the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system, the beneficiary will be able to buy subsidised foodgrains from any FPS across the country.
  • The new system, based on a technological solution, will identify a beneficiary through biometric authentication on electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices installed at the FPSs, and enable that person to purchase the quantity of foodgrains to which she is entitled under the NFSA.

Why do we need a ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system?

  • In the present system, a ration cardholder can buy foodgrains only from an FPS that has been assigned to her in the locality in which she lives.
  • Suppose a beneficiary lives in the district of Basti in Uttar Pradesh and migrates to Mumbai for work. Currently, she is no longer able to purchase subsidised foodgrains from a PDS shop in her new locality in Mumbai.
  • The Public Distribution System (PDS) system is marred with inefficiency leading to leakages in the system. To plug the leakages and make the system better, the government has started the reform process.

Since when has the One Nation, One Ration Card System been in the works?

  • The one card scheme work started about two years back when the government launched a scheme called Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) in April 2018.
  • It used a technological solution involving the use of Aadhaar to identify beneficiaries.
  • Under the scheme, the seeding of ration cards with Aadhaar is being done.
  • Simultaneously, PoS machines are being installed at all FPSs across the country.
  • Once 100 per cent of Aadhaar seeding and 100 per cent installation of PoS devices is achieved, the national portability of ration cards will become a reality.
  • It will enable migrant workers to buy foodgrains from any FPS by using their existing/same ration card.

How will the system of ration card portability work?

  • Ration card portability is aimed at providing intra-state as well as inter-state portability of ration cards.
  • While the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) portal provides the technological platform for the inter-state portability of ration cards, enabling a migrant worker to buy foodgrains from any FPS across the country, the other portal ( hosts the data of distribution of foodgrains through E-PoS devices within a state.
  • The Annavitran portal enables a migrant worker or his family to avail the benefits of PDS outside their district but within their state.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023