The government has decided to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing subsidised foodgrains from the ration shops with a view to better target Rs. 1.4 lakh crore subsidy under the food security law.
The government has given time to those not having the biometric-based unique identification number to apply for Aadhaar by June 30.
The government issued a notification to this effect but did stop short of saying that subsidised foodgrains will not be sold to anyone not having Aadhaar after June 30.
Under the National Food Security Law (NFSA), which has been completely rolled out across the country in November last year, the government provides 5 kg of foodgrains per person every month at Rs. 1-3/kg to over 80 crore people.
"...the Department of Food and Consumer Affairs has issued a Notification under Aadhaar Act on February 8 which requires individual beneficiaries having ration cards under NFSA to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication to receive subsidies under NFSA (i.e. subsidised food grains or cash Transfer of Food Subsidy under NFSA)," an official statement said.
The notification would come into effect from February 8 in all states and UTs except Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir. This will also be applicable to all the new beneficiaries.
"Beneficiaries under NFSA who do not possess the Aadhaar number or are not yet enrolled for Aadhaar, but are desirous of availing subsidies under NFSA are required to make application for Aadhaar enrolment by June 30, 2017 and may visit any Aadhaar enrolment centre to get enrolled for Aadhaar," the statement said.
The notification has been issued since subsidised foodgrains under PDS and cash transfer of food subsidy under NFSA involves recurring expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, it added.
Till Aadhaar is assigned to the beneficiaries, the government said foodgrains would be provided on production of ration card and either Aadhaar enrolment ID slip or copy of his/her request made to state government for Aadhaar enrolment alongwith any of the 8 documents.
These are Voter ID Card, PAN, Passport, Driving License, Certificate of Identity with photo issued by Gazetted Officer/Tehsildar on official letter head, address card having name and photo issued by Department of Posts, Kisan Photo Passbook and any other document as specified by State/UT Governments.
The beneficiaries can make request for Aadhaar enrolment by giving their name, address, mobile number with ration card number and other details with their fair price shop owners or through the web portal provided for the purpose by State/UT Governments.
A senior food ministry official said a notification has been issued as the states were slow in linking Aadhaar card with ration cards despite giving several extension to expedite the process. The official said digitisation is essential to curb leakages and corruption in PDS and better targetting of food subsidy.
So far, 72 per cent of ration cards have been seeded with Aadhaar Cards. There are 23 crore ration cards, of which about 16.62 crore have been linked, while there are 5.27 lakh ration shops across the country.
The centre has asked the states to link Aadhaar number of beneficiary with the ration card or with bank account for cash transfer of food subsidy within thirty days after receiving the same, the statement said.
Govt provides direct cash transfer of food subsidy to the beneficiaries in Chandigarh, Puducherry and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
A provision has been made that any member of eligible household listed in the ration card would be entitled to get the entire quota of subsidised foodgrains or cash transfer of food subsidy, if any one member of the household in the ration card fulfills the identification conditions in case Aadhaar is not yet assigned to all such members of the household.
The government said that the use of Aadhaar as identity document for delivery of services or benefits or subsidies simplifies the delivery processes, brings in transparency and efficiency and enables beneficiaries to get their entitlements directly in a convenient and seamless manner.
That apart, it said that Aadhaar obviates the need for producing multiple documents to prove one's identity.
"Aadhaar Act, inter-alia, provides that the central/state government while making expenditure from Consolidated fund of India for any subsidy, may require such individual to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication," the statement said.
The Food Department of all the states and UTs should make wide publicity through media and individual notices through the district food supply office or fair price shops etc to make the beneficiaries aware of the requirement of Aadhaar under the scheme.
The states have been asked to advise beneficiaries to get themselves enrolled at the nearest enrolment centres available in their areas by June and a list of locally available enrolment centres should be made available to them.
States have been told to offer enrolment facilities for the beneficiaries.
In case there is no Aadhaar enrolment centre located in the respective block or taluka or tehsil, states are required to provide enrolment facilities at convenient locations in coordination with the UIDAI or the existing Registrars of UIDAI or by becoming UIDAI registrar themselves.
In the Budget for 2017-18, the government has earmarked Rs. 1,45,338.60 crore for food subsidy in the next fiscal against Rs. 1,35,172.96 crore in the revised estimate of this fiscal.
(With PTI inputs)