States push ahead to include non-card holders for free rations under PDS

Topics Coronavirus | PDS | Lockdown

The states that have decided to universalise their PDS will give free grains even to those who don’t have a ration card.
With a growing number of people without ration cards finding it difficult to get free food during the Covid-19 crisis, several states have, in the past few weeks, decided to temporarily universalise their public distribution system (PDS). However, experts said unless clear guidelines are there, it remains to be seen how many people fall within the ambit and who remains excluded.

The states, which have decided to universalise their PDS, will give free grains even to those who don’t have a ration card either as part of a central government scheme or state programme.

In Uttar Pradesh, among the first states to announce free ration for three months to select beneficiaries, the government said it has decided to universalise the PDS till June.  People who don’t have a ration card or even Aadhaar card will be eligible for free dry ration. These include nomadic communities as well and migrant labourers settled in the state.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had said he would universalise the PDS so that everyone is eligible for free ration. He said those ration cards, which were cancelled by the previous government, will also be considered for free food distribution. The number amounts to around 750,000.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced universal PDS to ensure that those without ration cards get free food. The state has decided to provide two quintals of rice to every panchayat in the state for free distribution to those withiout cards. The gram panchayat has to keep a record of the person to whom this free rice is being given. Those without ration cards will get 5 kgs of free rice under the initiative.

According to sources, it has adopted a self-declaration system by the beneficiary underlying his need for free food. In cities, the urban bodies can distribute 5 kgs of free rice to those without cards.

Rajasthan and Telangana governments have decided to universalise their PDS operations for the time being.  Rajasthan is giving free ghee, oil, pulses and sugar.

The Delhi government  started a system of e-coupons to enable those without ration cards get free food during the lockdown period. However,  activists say the process is cumbersome and heavily relies on smartphone for getting identified as a potential beneficiary. The e-coupons can be accessed after signing in through the Aadhaar number.

“In Delhi, we have seen that the process of verification is highly cumbersome. In states which have announced universalisation of PDS, if the poor, migrants or informal sector workers have to prove that they are eligible, then the whole purpose is defeated,” said Dipa Sinha, a teacher at Ambedkar University.

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