The government on Thursday refashioned the 'One Nation, One Ration Card' scheme as a relief measure for migrant workers, but pushed the deadline for complete coverage to March 2021, an extension of nine months.
The scheme, which enables cardholders to avail cheap grains from any ration shop irrespective of current residence, was already operational in 12 states at a very limited scale by April. Thereafter, seven more states were added to the list, including Uttar Pradesh. The earlier date for full coverage was June.
Critics say the scheme will not work unless all migrant labourers carry their ration cards with them.
“Secondly, assuming the scheme is working, what happens when a new migrant shows up at a PDS outlet, how will the PDS dealer serve him without denying usual cardholders enlisted with his shop,” said Reetika Khera, associate professor as IIM-Ahmedabad.
Sources said proper Aadhar seeding of all rations cards was a must for proper implementation of the scheme.
According to the central government, so far around 90 per cent of the over 500,000 ration shops in the country have electronic-point of sale (e-PoS) devices, while 90 per of the 220 million ration cards have been seeded with Aadhar numbers.
Despite these achievements, a very miniscule amount of grains has been disbursed through the scheme.
Had intra-state and inter-state portability been fully operational across the country, it could have provided relief to the estimated 140 million migrant workers across the country.
According to the food ministry, a little over 700,000 tonnes of foodgrain was distributed through inter-state portable ration cards in March, out of the over 3.6 million tonnes of grain distributed to more than 810 million beneficiaries through the network of ration shops.