Is this smart PDS?

Down to Earth - - FOOD SECURITY -

Each ben­e­fi­ciary of the pub­lic dis­tri­bu­tion scheme is pro­vided with a smart ra­tion card, which can be pro­duced at any fair price shop to avail food­grains at sub­sidised rates. Each of th­ese shops is equipped with a Point of Sale ( POS) de­vice. This has two smart card read­ers, a fin­ger print scan­ner, a ther­mal printer and gen­eral packet ra­dio ser­vice ( GPRS), which uses a SIM card. It uses an ap­pli­ca­tion called COREPDS (Cen­tralised On­line Real-time Elec­tronic PDS) with GPRS con­nec­tiv­ity. When a smart card is in­serted into the de­vice, it reads the card num­ber which is then sent to a server. The de­tails of the ben­e­fi­ciary are stored in this server. When the quan­tity of food­grains to be is­sued is en­tered by the fair price owner, the in­for­ma­tion is again sent to the server. Once the trans­ac­tion is up­dated on the server, the suc­cess re­port is sent to the POS de­vice, which then gen­er­ates a re­ceipt.

But how ef­fi­cient is a smart ra­tion card? Ac­cord­ing to a survey in April 2014 by the In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy-Delhi, 30 per cent fair price shop own­ers face con­nec­tiv­ity prob­lems. Some­times, the smart ra­tion card does not con­nect to the server and pre­vents trans­ac­tion. When the prob­lem was dis­cussed with the PDS au­thor­i­ties, the ser­vice provider for the SIM cards was changed from Re­liance to another cel­lu­lar company. "The sys­tem runs bet­ter now, but the gov­ern­ment should help us main­tain the bal­ance in the cards," says Sal­man Ali, a fair price shop owner in San­jay Na­gar in Raipur. He says while the ex­act amount of food­grains re­quired by them are ac­counted for by the au­thor­i­ties, the trucks trans­port­ing th­ese food­grains to the shops can show a loss of 25 per cent and still get away with it.

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