The Department of Food & Public Distribution is implementing a scheme for end-to-end digitization of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). In a written response to a question in the Lokh Sabha, Shri C.R. Chaudhary, the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution has said that this includes digitization of ration card, beneficiaries, and other databases. The specifics of the other databases have not been mentioned.

Computerisation of TPDS so far:

So far, 29 states have been digitized. Chaudhary also added that two Union Territories – Chandigarh and Puducherry – have fully adopted DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) Cash for food grains. However, owing to tough geographical conditions and connectivity issues, online allocation is yet to be implemented in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshadweep.

He added that the scheme has been extended by one year, up to March 2018 to implement the Depot Online Project to automate all the operations at the Depot level. According to the statement, “the project was launched in 31 Depot across 27 States on 17th March, 2016 and it is under implementation in all 531 Depot of FCI. The Depot Online system is operational at 508 depots.

It is worth noting that earlier in February 2017, Aadhar was made mandatory for availing subsidized food grains from the ration shops with June 30, 2017 was set as the deadline to link your Aadhar and ration card, according to a report by The Hindu.  The publication added that there are 5.27 lakh ration shops in India and 72% of 23 crore ration cards of about 16.62 crore have been linked with Aadhaar cards. The government had also instructed the states to link Aadhaar number of the beneficiary with the ration card or with a bank account for cash transfer of food subsidy within thirty days after receiving the Aadhaar number. This essentially means that individuals must either possess an Aadhaar number or undergo biometric authentication. Prior to this, Aadhar was also made mandatory for availing LPG subsidies.

Problems reported with PDS: 

Out of these 29 states, several states have reported various problems with the Aadhar enabled Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) owing to internet connectivity, fragile technology, authentication failure, among others.

Andhra Pradesh: In October 2015, half of the beneficiaries in the surveyed areas of Andhra Pradesh with Aadhar enabled PDS couldn’t access their ration quota due to glitches, lack of training and mismatches linked to Aadhaar, reports Hindustan Times.

Rajasthan: The state of Rajasthan had reported authentication failures as early as April 2016.

Chandigarh: In July 2016, ration supply was reported to have been stopped to 15 lakh Aadhaar card holders in Chandigarh.

Jharkhand: In September 2016, there were several cases of authentication failures were reported due to the Point of Sale (POS) machines’ failure to recognize the fingerprints of a large number of National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries in Jharkhand’s Ranchi district.

Maharashtra: In October 2016, inconsistencies in data were found in Maharashtra. Names on the ration cards are not the same as the names on Aadhaar cards as people add a prefix or suffix on the same.

Gujarat:  Food and Civil Supplies Department of Gujarat has intimated that they are experiencing difficulties in effective implementation of AePS payment at FPSs due to poor Aadhaar seeding and transaction failures, reports Indian Express.