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Yogi Government has overhauled Uttar Pradesh’s PDS system using technology

Author: Shantanu Gupta and Alok Kumar
Publication: The Times of India
Date: March 17, 2020
URL:       https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/voices/yogi-government-has-overhauled-uttar-pradeshs-pds-system-using-technology/?s=03

– Uttar Pradesh Government has identified 25 Lakhs ghost ration cards and saved more than 1200 crores, by Aadhar seeding of ration cards and ePOS based ration distribution in Uttar Pradesh

The Food department of Uttar Pradesh state has existed for more than 60 years and traditional methods of procurement, storage and distribution existed. A breakthrough was achieved by the State in the last three years by overhauling the PDS by usage of technology and high-quality process re-engineering.

PDS system in any part of the country has these five classic problems – Lack of robust database for farmers and irregular and un-timely payments to the farmers, Existence of ineligible and ghost beneficiaries, Syphoning of food grains during transportation, Irregularity in quantity of food grain distributed by the ration shop owner, Untimely arrival of food grains and lack of tracking of food grains. Uttar Pradesh has 80000 Ration Shops, spread across 826 blocks in 75 districts catering to 14.38 crore beneficiaries. In a populous and large state like UP, such problems were even more challenging. Uttar Pradesh Government took these challenged head on.

To increase the efficiency and transparency in procurement, farmer data was brought on a comprehensive online database and payments were made online to their bank accounts with in 72 hours of the purchase, which used to take days or months earlier. Uttar Pradesh is the first state to pay farmers for their produce through automated Public Finance Management System (PFMS) of direct benefit transfer (DBT). End to End Supply Chain in Procurement process has been made online by the department and made available in public portal.

Leakage and diversion of food grains during transportation has always been a challenge for the department. The distribution of food grains happens in two stages – Movement from FCI depot to block godowns and movement of food grains from block godowns to Ration shops. Having a vehicle tracking system in all the transport vehicles working for the department and monitoring with GPS, proved to be an efficient way to improve transparency and accountability. The Command Centre established at the food department headquarters at Lucknow, has a dedicated team to monitor these operations and report deviations and suspected halts. As on date, more than 99% of the stage 1 vehicles are GPS enabled. Due to GPS enabled vehicles, Department was also able to establish predefined routes and thereby saved 25% in overall transportation cost. The monitoring of food grain movement has been successful, and there has been no FIR cases been lodged in UP for food diversion, which was quite common earlier.

The identification of eligible beneficiaries was on top priority of the department and they initiated Aadhar feeding and seeding to make sure only eligible beneficiaries avail ration. The massive task of Aadhar seeding and bio-metric validation of all the 3.5 Crore plus ration cards for 14.38 crore beneficiaries of Uttar Pradesh was done in a phased manner.

Department initiated bulk authentication through Common Service Centres (CSCs) for efficiently increasing the authentication rate. The exercise started in August 2017 and by March 2018 the state achieved 35% Aadhar validation and as on Feb 2020 the state achieved 93.05% Aadhar validation. All the 80000 ration shops were equipped with electronic point of sale machines (ePOS) and transactions were validated by bio-metrics with an extra facility of validation by IRIS. Today, 97% of all Ration shop transactions in Uttar Pradesh are happening through Aadhar enabled biometric validation, which is no less than a magic for a populous state like Uttar Pradesh.

The impact has been seen when 25 lakhs ghost ration cards have been weeded out and Uttar Pradesh has saved approximately 1600 crores, because of Aadhar seeding and ePOS-based ration distribution in UP. Now ration shop owners cannot tamper with the entitled amount of food grains to a beneficiary. Bio metric authentication has ensured the right beneficiary gets the right quantity at the right price. Digitization has provided significant convenience to beneficiaries as it ensures quick distribution of food grains and minimizes queues to a great extent. As soon as a particular ration shop owner gets the food supplies, the linked beneficiaries will get an automated SMS intimation on their mobile phones. Earlier they used to check multiple times, with the ration shop owner, about the availability of the food grains.

Though department faced various resistance from Ration shop dealers who were not ready to accept the technological changes, through counselling and meetings, department has been successful in convincing the ration shop owners on the advantages of the new technology driven process. Now the ration shop owners are fully onboard because the new system ensured timely disbursement of dealer commission and effortless recordkeeping. Moreover, the usage of technology and online payment gateway has helped in the upskilling of the ration shop owners and enabled them to explore new opportunities to augment their income.

Using this completely integrated online system, Food and Civil Supplies, Commissionerate at Lucknow, Regional level officers and even field level officers can check the supply and distribution of food grains till the last ration shop and can very easily monitor the whole supply chain process from the godown to the beneficiary, using data-driven dashboards. Department has a data analytics team, which provides various kinds of reports on transaction, beneficiary analysis, route deviations and on-time delivery. This helps the department and senior officers to undertake a data driven approach in forecasting month on month, shop wise, block wise and district wise demand for the whole state. The state has also implemented State Portability and is ready to imbibe the ‘One Nation one Ration Card”, idea of the central government. To add further to government’s promise for transparency, the department has made procurement, distribution and transportation details available on public portal and has also developed a mobile app to facilitate the beneficiaries.

-Shantanu Gupta is a biographer of UP CM Yogi Adityanath, book titled, The Monk Who Became Chief Minister, and Alok Kumar (IAS) is an Ex-commissioner, Food & Civil Supply of Uttar Pradesh
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