The Indian government has announced that it intends to update its ration card system so that it can take advantage of Aadhaar.
Aadhaar is the 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian government to every individual resident of India. The Aadhaar project aims to provide a single, unique identifier which captures all the demographic and biometric details of every Indian resident. Currently, Aadhaar has issued over 900 million Aadhaar numbers, and has enrolled approximately 850 million people, with a goal of ultimately enrolling 1.28 billion people.
According to a report in the Indian Express, India’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister Girish Bapat says that the national government is planning on providing real-time online updates on ration card credits which will be linked to the Aadhaar authentication system.
“Online updation of ration card holders would give us the correct picture and Aadhaar seeding would definitely ensure better transparency,” Bapat told the Indian Express concerning his department’s new measures. “We will ensure that the updation is completed at the earliest and biometric ration cards are rolled out soon.’’
Bapat noted that online updation would increase transparency in the system and work to reduce the level of ration card fraud in the country. The minister argues that by linking the ration card system to Aadhaar, a greater level of security will can be achieved and that the system will be easier for the public service to manage.
Bapat said that once the ration card system is linked to Aadhaar and fully computerized, bogus cards would be invalided.
India’s Department of Food & Public Distribution estimates that linking the ration card system to Aadhaar will save 30 percent of food grain inventories from being fraudulently distributed under the country’s public distribution system (PDS).
PDS, India’s food security system, is maintained by both the national and state governments in India. The program distributes subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor. This scheme was launched in India on June 1997. Major commodities distributed include staple food grains, such as wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene. The foodstuffs are distributed through a network of fair price shops (also known as ration shops), established in several states across the country.
Under the PDS scheme, each family below the poverty line is eligible for 35 kg of rice or wheat every month, while a household above the poverty line is entitled to 15 kg of food grain on a monthly basis. As of date there are about 500,000 fair price shops (FPS) across India. The system costs India’s treasury US$13.6 billion per year, almost one percent of the country’s GDP.