How the Indian Government’s digital push is helping millions of underprivileged gain access to food
Published 12 March 2021
The Indian government has launched an app to enable poor people access to food grains from the national Public Distribution System.
Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary, Department of Food & Public Distribution under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution said that this was the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “One Nation One Ration Card” (ONORC) plan. This app will benefit especially those ration card holders who move to new areas for livelihoods, he said.
A Ration Card is a document, similar to food stamps in the US, issued by the government, which entitles a poor person access to food grains in any part of the country. Earlier, a person had to be domiciled in a particular state to avail of these benefits. The ONORC scheme is being implemented by the Department for the nation-wide portability of ration cards under National Food Security Act (NFSA).
This system allows all NFSA beneficiaries, particularly migrant beneficiaries, to claim either full or part foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) in the country through existing ration card with biometric/Aadhaar authentication in a seamless manner. The system also allows their family members back home, if any, to claim the balance foodgrains on same the ration card.
Pandey said that the system which was started initially in four states in August 2019 has been swiftly rolled out in a very short span of time in 32 states and Union Territories by December 2020 and the integration of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal is expected to be completed in next few months. Pandey informed that at present, the system covers nearly 690 million National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries (about 86 per cent NFSA population) in the country and a monthly average of about 15-16 million portability transactions are being recorded under ONORC.
Further in his briefing, Pandey informed that the ONORC has proved to be a tremendous value-added service to each NFSA beneficiary during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly migrants, which allowed them to avail the benefit of subsidised foodgrains with flexibility from any location wherever they were during the lockdown/crisis period.
The freedom of choosing any FPS was not available earlier. During the period April 2020 to Feb 2021, a total of about 154 million portability transactions have been recorded under ONORC.
With regards to reaching out to migrant NFSA beneficiaries, he said that the Department is continuously collaborating with other Ministries/Departments too. He said that the integration of Migrants’ Portal with ONROC system is undertaking with the support of Ministry of Labour & Employment,ONORC has been made a part of PM SVANidhi program of Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, awareness campaigning for migrants travelling through trains, amongst others.