Smart ration card scheme postponed in TN

Chennai: Smart ration cards won’t be issued this year, according to a Food Department official. As most of the State’s residents failed to give details of their Aadhaar cards, the Food Department has decided to postpone the issuance of new ration cards to February next year.

But there are chances for the scheme to be introduced in four districts this year itself as a pilot project. The districts are Ariyalur, Perambalur, Tiruchi and Pudukottai. The ration cards in use in the State now were issued in 2005.

Although the cards expired in 2009, the government decided to continue using it them pasting additional papers. But it’s already seven years since the card got expired and officials have felt the need to replace the older cards with newer, smarter ones.

In addition to the cards becoming old, officials said, there is a hike in the usage of multiple ration cards registered in the name of a single person. This has led to illegal usage of subsidised ration items resulting in an increase in expenditure for the State.

They also believe that the issues relating to the traditional ration cards can be curbed by linking the beneficiaries’ iris, fingerprint identity and photograph to the smart ration cards which will lift the beneficiaries’ details directly from their Aadhaar cards.

The manufacture, management of smart ration cards and installation of advanced equipment in ration shops were taken up by a private firm after winning the tender. It is learnt that the private firm started the work in early 2015.

As of now, many ration shops have received the ‘point of sale’ device which can store the details of beneficiaries’ ration card number, Aadhaar number, cooking gas number and the items bought.

Earlier, the government decided to complete the process by September and start issuing the card right from October this year. But due to lack of cooperation from the public by not furnishing Aadhaar details, the scheme got postponed to early next year, said the official.

Regarding the decision, he said, “To get the iris, fingerprint and photo identity details of all the residents, it will cost the State crores of rupees and that is the prime reason why we have sought the details from the Central government-issued Aadhaar cards. But still, many don’t have Aadhaar cards. It is estimated that in Tamilnadu alone, over two crore people don’t have Aadhaar. So, unless and until everyone has Aadhaar cards, it’s difficult to launch the smart ration card scheme. As of now, we are planning to start the scheme in February next year.”