DIMAPUR, JULY 19: One year after the pilot project of One Nation, One Ration Card (ONORC) was launched in Nagaland, the report card makes for an interesting read: there are no takers in the State, except for a handful at Dimapur.
And rather unsurprisingly, the scheme faces a digital roadblock.
Launched by the Centre in mid-2020, the scheme is a portable ration card project that seeks to facilitate the migrant workers’ better access to subsidised food grains, at source as well as destination, provided their ration card is digitalised and linked with Aadhaar.
Nagaland launched the pilot project in June last year, the Joint Director of Food and Civil Supplies, Temsu Jamir told Nagaland Page on Monday.
As part of the experiment, the Department had designated one fair price shop each in all the districts where inter-State migrants can buy subsidised food grains as per his or her entitlement, while allowing for his/her family members to get the same from ration dealers back home, he informed.
But the 12-month data between June last year and this year show that except for the designated fair price shop at Dimapur ~ located near West Police Station ~ none of the others registered any withdrawals under the scheme.
When put that the migrant workers or targeted beneficiaries might not be aware of the facility or the designated shops, he said the Department had “done a lot of advertisements” about it.
In the first month of the pilot project, June 2020, there were 4 withdrawals amounting to 33 kg of rice by inter-State migrants.
The highest number of food grains withdrawal under this scheme was registered in November 2020: 18 persons for a total of 273 kg of rice.
Except for one migrant from Kerala, all the others are from Bihar, as per the Department’s data.
An overwhelming majority of them were Priority Household (PHH) cardholders ~ this category of cardholders receives 5 kg of food grains per person per month.
Only 10 withdrawals were under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ~ this type of cardholders is eligible to receive 35 kg of food grains per month per family.
The Joint Director underscored that it is still a pilot project. “This is just the starting because we have to do a lot of technical monitoring”, he said.
According to him, the Department is hoping that in July, the designated shop at Kohima will register some recipients under the scheme. “If we just put the whole load at one go, it will be a failure. So we are going step-by-step”, said Jamir.
‘Hindrance to this system’
A major guiding principle of One Nation, One Ration Card scheme is the digitalisation of ration cards. This, in turn, has necessitated the introduction of E-PoS (Electronic Point of Sale) machines.
“It’s just like an ATM”, said the Joint Director.
As per this system, the E-PoS machine will identify the cardholder by crosschecking his/her fingerprint in Aadhaar using the biometric system in the machine. The name and details of all the members will be displayed on the screen, when the card number is entered, and everything is registered digitally at the server.
Jamir said that all the fair price shops have been provided with the E-PoS machine.
“The system is good. The only thing is, it needs lots of management. If you withdraw from one fair price shop this month and from another next month, then all the data has to be collected and rice has to be given accordingly. If your fair price shop is A, but you withdraw from shop B, the next month, he (shop B) will get minus (fewer quantity of rice). So, there are lots of technical aspects, which are difficult to manage”, he shared.
Proper management of this system requires more manpower and good internet connectivity across the State, said Jamir.
“Manpower is very less. Because we have to gather all that information ~ how many kilos have they withdrawn, from which shop ~ and compile it into one data. And basing on that data, allocate the next month’s supply to all the fair price shops”, he said.
And, since the entire system is “internet-based”, he said, “even if you punch your number into the machine, sometimes it doesn’t get registered because of poor connectivity, whereas we have already given the rice”.
To illustrate his point, the Joint Director cited Mokokchung district.
“Suppose in Mokokchung, we have around 100 fair price shops ~ each village has a fair price shop. Once it’s opened, then anybody drawing from any fair price shop has to be monitored. And then, we have to allocate the rice. So, it needs a very good monitoring system, one chamber where everything has to be technically set. Once the internet network fails, that means it will not be recorded.
“Supposing I have drawn from a fair price shop, it’s not been uploaded to the server because of poor internet but I have been given the rice. So, it will not be counted. That’s why good internet connectivity is a must. I believe that will be the drawback, the hindrance to this system”, said Jamir.
According to him, the Department officials have shared these problems of manpower and poor connectivity with the Union Ministry.
“Only when all the remote areas (in the State) are covered by the internet, then only we can go fully functional”, Jamir shared.
On June 29, the Supreme Court had set a deadline of July 31 for States to implement the One Nation One Ration Card system, and for the Centre to create a national database of unorganised workers.
The apex Court had criticised the Centre for the delay in setting up a national web portal to register migrant and unorganised workers, calling it “lackadaisical” and “unpardonable”.