States ruled by the National Democratic Alliance have taken the lead in implementing digital ration shops with the introduction of electronic point of sale machines, while non-NDA states have lagged behind in introducing this crucial anti-pilferage measure, data obtained from the food and consumer affairs ministry showed.
Out of the seven states that have introduced the system, five are ruled by the NDA. These are Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Haryana.
The remaining two are Tamil Nadu — where all 34,774 ration shops are now enabled with electronic point of sale — and Andhra Pradesh, which has also provided the facility at all its 29,082 ration outlets.
The only major NDA state that has not implemented the system is Maharashtra.
Despite this, the majority of the Indian states have not started the introduction of the anti-pilferage system.
These systems are similar to credit card ‘swipe machines’ but in many cases, they have support for Aadhaar verification. They are also connected to the state’s central monitoring database and stocks of grain and other items are dispatched automatically to these outlets to refresh stocks, based on the data obtained from these machines.
Jharkhand is the only other state that has made substantial progress in the introduction of e-POS enabled ration shops. Over 85% of its 23,379 ration outlets are now powered by the system.
Laggards include Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Bihar, Assam and most of the other north eastern states.
The setting up of an Aadhaar-enabled electronic distribution system is expected to break the back of the PDS diversion lobby in the country.
With over Rs 1 lakh cr of money spent every year, the public distribution system or rationing of food grains, kerosene and fuel is the single biggest welfare item on the government’s budget.
However, it also has the reputation of being extremely inefficient due to diversion and substitution of the products sent through the system.
To overcome the problem, the government had asked the states to install electronic point-of-sale machines and weighing scales at the 5.26 lakh ‘ration shops’ in the country.
Not suprisingly, the move has been facing resistance from various quarters due to the entrenched interests involved.
As a result, a state like Kerala — which is known for having an ‘exemplary’ public distribution system — does not have even a single e-POS enabled outlet yet.