Centre takes to tech to slash Food bill subsidy burden

In what would aid the government’s effort at curbing the pilferage from the public distribution system and rationalising its food subsidy outgo, all 24 crore ration cards in the country have got digitised, with more than half of these seeded with the unique identification number Aadhaar. This has already led to the weeding out of a large number of duplicate ration cards.

With this and the headway made in financial inclusion under the Jandhan programme, pan-India roll-out of direct benefit transfer (DBT) would be possible sooner than expected, official sources said. The rapid spread of mobile telephony would accelerate the process, they added.

The process of installation of electronic point of sale (ePoS) devices at fair price shops (FPSs) , which is meant to track the sale of foodgrains to actual cardholders on a real-time basis, is also under way. So far, 1.23 lakh FPSs or close to a quarter of such shops in the country have been ePoS-enabled. The target is have 3 lakh shops equipped with e-POS devices by March, 2017. With 100% of the states’ FPSs having e-POS, Andhra Pradesh has saved an estimated R1,000 crore in food subsidy, a pointer to by how much DBT-Aadhaar and ePoS could together reduce the Centre’s subsidy bill. The Centre allocates 50-55 million tonnes of rice and wheat annually to implement the National Food Security Act.