How will the 'One Nation, One Ration Card' scheme be simplified?

Policy Making Jul 16, 2021

One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) System is an important tech-oriented and citizen-centric reform, which aims to ensure that ration is available to beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes, focusing on migrant workers and their families, at any Fair Price Shop (FPS) across the country.

The reform implies the use of ‘MERA RATION’ mobile app, which will benefit those ration cardholders, including mostly the migrant labourers who move to new areas for livelihood to be self-reliant in food security. The reform enables the States to enhance welfare by eliminating duplicate or fake cardholders. Aadhaar seeding of all ration cards and biometric authentications of beneficiaries is essential to ensure seamless inter-state portability of a ration card. The biometric authentication is done through automation of all Fair Price Shops(FPs) by installing electronic point of sale (e-PoS).

The reform allowed each  National Food Security Act beneficiary during these unprecedented times of the pandemic, particularly migrants and their families at home, to avail the benefit of subsidized food grains with flexibility from any location wherever they were during the lockdown period with the same ration card. To promote this reform in India's ration card-led Public Distribution System (PDS) of foodgrains, the Centre has given the incentive of additional borrowing of supplies, to the states. During the Covid-19 pandemic, at least 17 states, which implemented the ONORC reform, borrowed an additional Rs 37,600 crores in 2020-21.

The Supreme Court has directed all states and union territories to implement a 'one nation, one ration card' scheme (ONORC) till July 31.  It has said that a  government cannot “abdicate” its duties to feed migrant workers, especially during a pandemic. This step has been taken to ensure that the Centre and State fulfil their duty to not let the estimated 38 crore migrant workers, who form one-fourth of the country’s population, go hungry during the pandemic. The Centre has been asked to allocate food grains to states and union territories for distribution among migrant workers for free until the COVID-19 situation exists. The State governments have to frame schemes to distribute dry ration to migrant workers by July 31. The Centre has to supply additional quantities of food grains a State demands to feed the workers and for the running of community kitchens, during the time of pandemic crisis.

The court has also denounced the Labour Ministry for its “unpardonable apathy” as it did not complete the work of the ₹ 45.39-crore National Database for Unorganized Workers (NDUW) portal to register and identify migrant workers and unorganized labourers in order to ensure their rights, welfare and food security. The court ordered the Centre to get its act together and complete the work on the portal with the help of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) by July 31. The States and Union Territories have to register establishments and licence contractors under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and ensure that they provide the authorities with complete details of the workers employed with them.

This article has been written by Sharon John for The Paradigm

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