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Leveraging Technology to Streamline PDS Operations

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PDS Operations

As an outcome of the use of technology for PDS reforms, i.e., digitisation of ration cards/beneficiaries, de-duplication due to Aadhaar, online detection of transfers/migration/death or change in economic status of the beneficiaries, a total of 2.98 crore duplicate/ineligible ration cards have been cancelled between 2013 and 2018, writes S Jagannathan, Joint Secretary (BP & PD), Department of Food & Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.

As part of the efforts being made to bring in reforms in the Public Distribution System and to improve the distribution of food grains across the country, the Department of Food and Public Distribution, in association with all States and UTs, is implementing a scheme on “End-to-End Computerisation of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) Operations”.

The scheme is being implemented on cost sharing basis with States/UTs. The costs are being shared on 90:10 basis with North Eastern States and on 50:50 basis with other States/UTs. The scheme was approved by the CCEA in October 2012, at a total project cost of Rs 884.07 crores.

The Department conveyed administrative approval for the scheme to all States/UTs on December 10, 2012. The scheme has been declared as a Mission Mode Project (MMP) by the Government. National Informatics Centre (NIC) is the technical partner under the scheme. Validity of the scheme is extended by the Government up to March 31, 2020 (without cost escalation).

Key Activities

Following are the key activities and their expected outcomes under Component-I of the scheme:

i. Digitisation of Beneficiary Database – Enable correct identification of beneficiaries; removal of bogus cards and better targeting of food subsidies

ii. Online Allocation of Food Grains – System generated allocation of food grains to bring transparency in allocation, up to the Fair Price Shops (FPS) level.

iii. Computerisation of Supply Chain Management – Timely availability of food grains to intended beneficiaries at FPS; check leakages/diversion

iv. Grievance Redressal

Mechanism and Transparency Portals – Introduce transparency and public accountability in the implementation of TPDS through transparency portals, online grievance registration and toll-free helpline numbers.

As per the last amendment, timeline for linking of Aadhaar number with ration cards (at least one member of household) has been extended up to June 30,2019.

A Snapshot of Achievements

As per reports appearing on Central NFSA dashboard (https://nfsa.gov.in), significant progress has been made under the scheme. A snapshot of achievements at the national level, as per reports available from the States/ UTs as on May 2019, is as below:

i. All ration cards/beneficiaries under NFSA have been digitized in all States/UTs.

ii. More than 85 percent ration cards and 80 percent beneficiaries are seeded with Aadhaar numbers.

iii. Online allocation of food grains up to FPS levels has started in all States/UTs (except DBT Cash Transfers implementing UTs).

iv. Computerised supply chain operations has started in 26 States/ UTs (except DBT Cash Transfers implementing UTs and Lakshadweep).

v. Online grievance redressal mechanism/toll-free helplines have been setup in all States/UTs.

vi. Transparency portals are available in all States/UT.

vii. More than 4.1 lakh (77 percent) out of total 5.3 lakh FPSs in the country are automated using ePoS devices in 27 States/UTs.

Seeding of Aadhaar with Ration Cards

To weed-out duplicate/ineligible ration cards/beneficiaries and to enable unique identification of rightfully eligible beneficiaries/household, all States/UTs have been requested for seeding the Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries with their ration cards. Presently at the national level, more than 85 percent ration cards have been seeded with Aadhaar number of at least one member of the household, whereas, at the beneficiary level it is about 80 percent. Further, in pursuance of the provisions in the Section-7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, this Department has notified the use of Aadhaar to receive subsidised food grains or cash transfer of food subsidy under NFSA, on February 8, 2017 (as amended from time to time). As per the last amendment, timeline for linking of Aadhaar number with ration cards (at least one member of household) has been extended up to June 30, 2019. Until then, no denial of entitlements to eligible beneficiaries has been advised to all States/UTs in case of nonpossession of Aadhaar and failure of Aadhaar authentication due to technical/network/ connectivity/ linking issues or poor biometrics of beneficiary.

Weeding out Duplicate/Ineligible Ration Cards

As an outcome of the use of technology for PDS reforms, i.e., digitisation of ration cards/beneficiaries, deduplication due to Aadhaar, online detection of transfers/migration/death or change in economic status of the beneficiaries, and during the run-up to and implementation of NFSA, a total of 2.98 crore duplicate/ineligible ration cards have been deleted/cancelled by the State/UT governments between 2013 and 2018.

Automation of FPSs

Under Component-II of the scheme, i.e. automation of Fair Price Shops (FPSs), which involves installation of electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices for – issuance of subsidised food grains after biometric/Aadhaar authentication of beneficiaries and electronic recording keeping of sales transactions data in a centralised server, so far, more than 4.1 lakh FPSs (77 percent) out of total 5.3 lakh FPSs have been automated across the country. As regards financial assistance, the Government has approved an FPS dealers’ margins at Rs 87/quintal to State/UT governments under NFSA, which also includes reimbursement of Rs 17/quintal for their expenditure towards purchase and operations of ePoS devices at their FPSs. Such expenditure would be shared between Centre and State/UT governments on 75:25 basis for Special Category States/UTs and on 50:50 basis for General Category States/UTs.

Aadhaar Authentication

As a result of Aadhaar seeding and FPS automation, the State/UT governments are able to reduce ghost lifting, and are able to achieve rightful targeting of food subsidies by authentication of eligible beneficiaries, improvement in service delivery, weeding out bad FPSs, etc. At present, nearly 80 percent (~10 crore out of 12.4 crore) of all electronic/ePoS transactions are being done after biometric/Aadhaar authentication of beneficiaries on monthly basis. The biometric/Aadhaar authenticated distribution of subsidised foodgrains at FPSs using ePoS device is also considered as DBT (in-kind) by the government.

IM-PDS

Further, to sustain the reforms brought in by the ongoing End-to-End Computerisation of TPDS Operations’ scheme and to introduce new reforms, the Department has launched a new Central Sector Scheme – “Integrated Management of Public Distribution System” (IM-PDS) – approved for implementation in all States/UTs with effect from April 2018 for two years. Following are the key objectives of this scheme –

a) Implementation of nation-wide portability in food grains distribution

b) Creation of national level data repository for de-duplication of beneficiary data (Aadhaar based)

c) Use of advanced data analytics techniques to bring about continuous improvements

Intra-State Portability

Leveraging the above, more than 10 States (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura) have enabled intra-State portability facility for the ration card holders to lift the entitled food grains from any FPS in the State.

Monitoring Institutes

Further, for the Concurrent Evaluation of the implementation of NFSA, on quarterly basis, the Department has selected 26 leading universities/ institutions of repute, having expertise in research in social programmes, to be appointed as ‘Monitoring Institutes’ (MIs) for 27 States/UTs. The activity was completed in more than 200 districts till March 31, 2019.

Data Analytics

With a view to introduce the use of Data Analytics on PDS data in all States/UTs, to enable them identify areas of improvements, streamlining PDS operations and to facilitate rightful targeting of food subsidy under NFSA, this Department has prepared a list of parameters to be considered for carrying out data analytics within the State/UT. A central team of data analysts is being set-up in this Department, comprising of experts engaged by this Department to visit and carry out data analysis in all States/UTs (in a phased manner). Till date, data analysis activity has been completed in 18 States.

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