Is this smart PDS?
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.