Once seen as the most corrupt state in ration distribution, Uttar Pradesh has redefined the Public Distribution System(PDS) by becoming India's first state to achieve more than 99 percent food distribution through a transparent biometrics identification system.
"UP's success story is amazing. It distributed food to 14.60 crore beneficiaries through a 100 percent transparent digital process. Obviously, India's most populous state has plugged its leakages and loopholes in ration distribution," said Sudhanshu Pandey, Union Food and Public Distribution Secretary.
During the two-decade-long SP-BSP rule in UP, the state faced several high-level probes into various multi-crore PDS scams. In 2014, the Allahabad High Court ordered a CBI probe in a food scam involving a top cabinet minister.
Till early 2019, UP topped the list of PDS corruption cases(328) followed by Bihar(108), but once the state switched to a transparent distribution process, the system saw a sea change. "I won't comment on political matters but would like to underline UP's amazing turnaround in PDS distribution which has now shown the way to other states in the country to plug leakages. After UP, Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have also registered around 99 per cent food distribution through biometrics," the Union Food Secretary told IANS.
The Modi government continues to spend over Rs 2 lakh crore every year to provide the world's biggest food distribution system to the people of India."Around 79.39 crore people are being provided with subsidised ration. It's the biggest-ever exercise of its kind. The best part is that this process is now much transparent. Almost 77 per cent of (79.39 crore) people get food through biometrics...which means each transaction of food delivery from various outlets is logged. In a way, the loopholes in such a huge process(of distribution) spread across the country have now been plugged. With a glimpse on the computer screen we can now tell you which person got how much(food) on a given date," Sudhanshu Pandey, a 1987 batch IAS officer of J&K cadre(now merged with AGMUT), said.
On being asked which states are yet to switch to the biometrics system for PDS, the Union Food Secretary said that West Bengal, Chhattisgarh,Delhi and Assam are four major states not complying with the transparent procedure of PDS. "While in Assam there seems a problem of Aadhaar card, the rest of the three states, despite having the infrastructure in place, have yet to decide on opting for a digital process. We have sent them reminders on the issue," added Pandey, seen as a bureaucrat who believes in adhering to timelines.
On the Supreme Court's recent notice to the Centre on cancelling more than 3 crore ration cards of poor people, the Union Food Secretary said that as the matter was sub judice, he would not comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, sources in the Ministry of Consumer Afairs, Food and Public Distribution revealed to IANS that 4.39 crore cards were deleted and in its place 4.41 crore fresh ration cards have been added. "The cards which have been deleted were based on the data matching of Aadhaar with ration card wherein it was discovered that people were issued two ration cards on one Aadhaar or vice versa. To prevent such irregularities, the cards were replaced," a source informed.