SRINAGAR: Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA), the nearly seven-decade-old department selling basic commodities of life at affordable rates, continues to struggle with the project of issuing a permanent ration card, a move that can save money and make the process relatively hassle-free for employees and consumers.
After every five years, the department issues new ration cards, an interface document that records monthly allocation of a commodity from the department to a consumer. This renewal involves a complicated process of receiving applications, processing them, and then releasing the new card valid for the next five years.
“This process has to go on until a complete online based system is put in place,” said Nisar Ahmad Wani, Director FCSCA Kashmir.
The last time the government printed new ration cards, it distributed 98 percent of them in rural areas and 92 percent in urban areas. The new ration cards were required to be given because of the implementation of the Food Act that changed the nomenclature of consumers into AAY, BPP, and APL categories. Even after two years, the entire population entitled to them is yet to get them. The government recently had to extend the validity of the cards by one year.
“There are problems within the department as well as outside, which prevent us from giving out cards for a prolonged time,” said Nisar. “Some section of employees involves in corrupt acts, while consumers also behave irresponsibly.”
Nisar said that every year thousands of registered people die but they are rarely deregistered from the list. Even a person who gets married applies for another registration without surrendering the old registration.
“This results in leakages and bogus distribution. I don’t deny that our employees are not involved. Giving out new ration cards at least skims the list to some extent,” Nisar said.
To replace this old flawed system, Nisar said, the department is installing point-of-sales devices, which will manage the distribution electronically. He said the department has already hired a company for five years which will install and run the machines.
“At present the machines are installed at Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal. It has yielded positive results. We will soon be going to Kulgam, Anantnag, and Bandipora. Once they are done, we will go to other districts,” he said.
“This new system will do away with the ration cards because the control will be given to an ATM-type card that will be fully under the control of the consumer. If we are successful, we will be able to save 10 percent of overall cost, disruptions, corruption, leakages, etc,” he said.
At present the government has to bear 60 percent of the printing cost of ration cards, while 40 percent is funded by JK Bank under corporate social responsibility.