There are many urban districts where more than 95 percent of the transactions have taken place through Aadhaar. Although the new system has started functioning in rural areas recently, the figures we are getting are quite encouraging, says Alok Kumar, Commissioner Food and Civil Supplies, Government of Uttar Pradesh, in an interview with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN).
How is Aadhaar transforming the PDS in Uttar Pradesh?
Aadhar-enabled Public Distribution System (PDS) through Point of Sale (PoS) machines is a game changer for Uttar Pradesh. The process of using Aadhaar for distributing commodities has now been completed in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, it was completed only in urban areas of the state.
Through the portal – https://mis. uppds.com/ – we are able to monitor the PDS across the state at any time. For example, by simply logging on to the website, which is in public domain, I can access the information on how much food grains have been distributed under PDS in a particular district since morning today. Likewise, we can access district-wise monthly data on food grain distribution from across the State. It may include identifying distribution-wise top five or bottom five districts in the State, or the analysis of sales patterns in various districts over a period of time.
This new system has ushered in transparency. So, distribution through ePoS which is linked to Aadhaar ensures that a genuine person has collected the food grains at Fair Price Shop (FPS). Currently, around 80 percent of the ration cards have been linked with Aadhaar. Therefore, we make efforts to ensure that the distribution through Aadhaar doesn’t go below that percentage. A proxy cannot be ascertained as a genuine beneficiary, but as per the Supreme Court’s direction we have to allow distribution of commodities without biometrics as there have been issues of mismatch of fingerprints, especially in the case of manual labourers. So, we have found a solution by starting scanning of iris for authentication. Our data is also able to reflect that how much ration has been issued after iris authentication is done at FPSs.
We also send block engineers to train PFS owners in iris authentication.
Can you brief us about the initiatives the Department has undertaken to further improve PDS in Uttar Pradesh?
We are fitting our supply vehicles with GPS to monitor their location or route diversions to stop various malpractices. We automatically receive alerts when the driver stops the vehicle or takes a different route than the predetermined one.
Other initiatives we are taking include the introduction of electronic weighing scale of 5-MT capacity at block go-downs. Some of these scales have already been installed in some warehouses. This has been done to address the complaints of FPS owners that they don’t get the delivery of their full quantity of commodities.
“We are fitting our supply vehicles with GPS to monitor their location or route diversions to stop various malpractices. We automatically receive alerts when the driver stops the vehicle or takes a different route than the predetermined one.”
We are in the process of installing CCTV cameras at every marketing warehouse. This too is being planned to plug the pilferages in PDS. Another initiative in the pipeline is to provide a 50-kg capacity weighing scale at the FPSs and integrate it to the PoS.
UP is one of the few states in the country which is using Command and Control Centre for monitoring PDS.
Other states have also adopted the Command and Control Centre method for monitoring PDS. But the number of such states is very small. For example, the Telangana Government has used this system effectively to monitor PDS in the State.
What kind of changes wee you able to observe after implementing these initiatives?
General public is assured that every month they would receive commodities they are entitled to, although there are few challenges that remain. For example, we are trying to address the issue of people getting the food grains at FPSs at the right price. There are many urban districts where more than 95 percent of the transactions have taken place through Aadhaar. Although the new system has started functioning in rural areas recently, the figures we are getting are quite encouraging.
So far as Aadhaar seeding is concerned, Uttar Pradesh has 13 crore 50 lakh beneficiaries and 3 crore 50 lakh ration cards, which is a huge number. Out of a total of 12 crore 71 lakh Aadhaar numbers fed into the system developed by NIC, 11 crore 9 lakhs, or almost 85 percent of the total, have been validated, which is a big achievement.
The system is evolving as per the requirements. People can seed their Aadhaar numbers on their own from our Common Service Centres.
In terms of purchasing paddy and wheat we have set a record of more than 100 percent. But this year, the purchasing of wheat has marginally come down as the market price of wheat is good and almost equivalent to MSP.
Against the target of 55 lakh tonnes, we have achieved 35 lakh tonnes and we are still left with few days to June 25 to take it further. Our work is to ensure the purchasing from farmers is done as per the MSP.