e-Governance to Ensure Food Security

Dr Pradeep Kumar
Secretary, Department of Food, Public Distribution
& Consumer Affairs, Government of Jharkhand

“Aadhar-linked Public Distribution System is playing a major role in ensuring proper food supply to the citizens of the state,” says Dr Pradeep Kumar. In conversation with Kartik Sharma and Souvik Goswami

Please share with us the objectives of the Department of Food, Public Distribution & Consumer Affairs of the Jharkhand Government.
Our main objective is to ensure food security in the State of Jharkhand, which is a food deficit state. Shortage of food is aggravated by frequent drought conditions and lack of sufficient irrigation facilities. In such a situation the thrust of the department will be to ensure food security by putting appropriate systems in place in coming five years. Also we would like to do this by developing and strengthening the institutions responsible for ensuring the food security. In this context I would like to mention that The Jharkhand State Food & Civil Supplies Corporation will be strengthened during the 12th Five year plan as it plays the most important role in the public distribution system.

What will be the focus area of your department in the coming five years?
The state plans to undertake computerization of the PDS operations and the use of technology for improving efficiency and monitoring mechanism. All operations starting from the State level to the Fair Price Shop level need to be computerized for better management, efficiency, monitoring, minimizing the pilferages, grievance redressal. This will improve the supply chain and also eliminate the problems of bogus ration cards. To be specific, our focus area will be: Computerization of the PDS operations and use of technology for improving the efficiency and monitoring mechanism, enhancement of the storage capacity, ensuring that the benefits reach the intended sections of the population, capacity building of the institutions and bringing more accountability to the system.

“To help illiterate beneficiaries, the handheld device will have recorded messages in Hindi to guide them through the authentication process”

Aadhar-linked Public Distribution System has been launched recently in the state of Jharkhand. Please shed some light on this project and also on other ICT initiatives being undertaken by your department.
Under the system, the biometric identity of each beneficiary will be authenticated at each PDS store. Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries are stored in a central database of food and civil supplies department, while each PDS shop will have a server and each dealer a handheld biometric device to authenticate the identity of the beneficiary by fingerprint-matching.

To help illiterate beneficiaries, the handheld device will have recorded messages in Hindi to guide them through the authentication process. Whenever consumer goes to a dealer to take ration, the dealer will do a onetime authentication. Handheld device will have a voice makeover which will record the entire transaction detail. We have also put mobile number of the beneficiary to this machine. So that, if biometric identification fails thrice due to any technical reason, one time password will be sent to the mobile number and beneficiary will be able to collect his ration. We have launched this successfully and more areas will be covered soon. Aadhar is playing a major role in this and it is also helping as already 86 per cent of the total population of Jharkhand have got Aadhar card.
Apart from this, we are also trying to use technology for the monitoring of the supply chain management.
We are also in the process of launching new program under which consumers will be informed through message that his or her ration has arrived to their dealer. This will bring transparency.

Where do you see IT implementation status in the state of Jharkhand in coming years?
I think it will go down till the block level. Now most of the IT uses are in the district level. This is the age of Data. Unlike earlier consumers are also now aware of the status of the benefits provided to them and all this has happened due to advancement in the use of Information Technology. I think there will be big progress in coming 3-4 years.

As one of the leaders of the state administration, what is your vision for the development of Jharkhand in respect of IT usage in the government functioning?
I think e-governance will be going to create a big awareness. Availability of the information also empowers people. Often poor people are not aware of their rights as they don’t have access to information and they don’t demand their rightful benefits. But this can change with the use of Information Technology. On the other hand, government will also have more clarity in the implementation of the schemes and recognizing the needs of the people and executive authorities will also be able to fulfill the needs of people. It will also help in bringing transparency and will help in increasing people’s participation to the entire system.

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