PDS check: Ration cards set to undergo ‘smart’ changeover


 If all goes to plan, ration cardholders in the state, in the next few months, will receive smart ration cards.
The state civil supplies department has begun the process of digitizing the data of ration cards and fair price shops. This will enable it to later issue smart (electronic) ration cards that will replace the existing paper ration cards. The move is aimed at curbing public distribution system (PDS) malpractices. And while the digitization is under way simultaneously across the state, as the pilot project Panaji's ration cardholders will be the first in the state to receive the smart cards.
"The data digitization should be completed in four months," said an official of the state civil supplies department. The master file of the 500-odd fair price shops (also called ration shops) is already complete, he added.
There are around 3.84 lakh ration cards issued in Goa, of which 28,000 have been issued in the below poverty line ( BPL) category and the rest in the above poverty line ( APL) category.
The department plans to utilise the biometrics from the UID database while digitizing the existing data. It will also print and send forms through its network of fair price shops so that cardholders can make corrections in the existing information and submit the forms. Goa electronics limited ( GEL) is to issue the digital ration cards once the digitization of the data is complete.
The move to provide smart ration cards to cardholders is part of a central government project to plug leakages in PDS. The entire project, which is expected to be completed by March 2014, also involves computerisation and e-networking of the fair price shops and installation of biometric point-of-sale systems.
This will ensure that black-marketeering of PDS supplies is substantially curtailed as all PDS billing will require the chip-based digital ration card as well as the biometric fingerprint of the cardholders at the time of billing. All procurement and sale of supplies will also be electronically billed. This will help prevent diversion of food grains meant for PDS supply into the open market. The cost of implementing the project in Goa is estimated at 30 crore. [TOI]