West Bengal is the only state where ration cards are issued to individuals while in other states and UTs, the ration cards are issued for families. The exercise to weed out ghost ration cards by the food ministry was started in 2013 soon after the then UPA government passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and kicked off the process for digitisation of ration cards. But the implementation picked up pace after 2014 and there has been a four-fold increase in deletion of such fake cards since then.
The digitisation of ration cards coupled with the drive for Aadhaar seeding and installation of ePoS machines at ration shops have helped the government ensure that only the rightful beneficiaries are getting the highly subsidised food grains and also that the ration shop owners distribute the food grains to all the beneficiaries. Now there is hardly any possibility to fudge figures as the details are captured electronically.
The maximum number of fake or duplicate ration cards were taken out from the system in 2015-16 when more than 80 lakh such cards were deleted. “While deleting a large number of such cards, we have also added new beneficiaries who require the subsidised food grain. The main focus of the NFSA is to ensure that the rightful beneficiaries get the benefit. In a way it is a huge saving,” said an official.
Under the NFSA, the Centre is providing food grains to states for distribution to nearly 81.4 crore beneficiaries at a subsidised rate of Rs 2 per kg of rice and Rs 3 per kg of wheat. Each beneficiary has also been getting additional 5kg food grains per month for free under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojna since March. The government is yet to decide whether this will be extended beyond November 30.