Delays, flaws hit digitisation of Delhi’s fair price shops | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Delays, flaws hit digitisation of Delhi’s fair price shops

A year after the project was launched, only 1.3% ration shops in the Capital have got the biometric system. Delhi was supposed to be the showcase city for digitisaton of rations shops but it seems the city will miss the March 31 deadline for the project.

delhi Updated: Dec 30, 2016 12:37 IST
Sweta Goswami
Fair Price Shops
The Centre has set a deadline of March 31, 2017 for setting up a biometric system through which the ration card holders could get subsidised grains.(ARIJI SEN /HT FILE)

From fingerprint and iris detection to adding cashless facility, there seems to be no dearth of ideation by the Delhi government when it comes to digitising Fair Price Shops (FPSs) — popularly known as ration shops — in the city. Yet, more than a year since the project of installing Point of Sale (PoS) devices at the 2,282 odd FPSs in Delhi took off, only 1.3% of them have it so far.

The Centre has set a deadline of March 31, 2017 for setting up a biometric system through which the ration card holders could get subsidised grains. While Delhi was supposed to be the ‘showcase city’ by being the first to implement it, achieving the target on time seems unlikely.

The state food and supplies department has floated as many as three tenders so far, but none could attract bidders for installation, operation and maintenance of the devices.

“We are adding a new feature of cashless transactions in the PoS devices. The final Request for Proposal (RFP) is ready and tenders will be floated soon. The selected bidder will begin work thereafter. Previous RFPs had several loopholes,” a department official said. Owing to repeated delays, the Dialogue and Development Commission (DDC) stepped in to revisit the project, and is now co-drafting the proposal.

Food and supplies minister Imran Hussain took a review meeting on Thursday. “With the installation of swipe machines, ration card holders can make payment for procuring food grains through RuPay Card, Debit Card, Credit Card etc, if they are short of cash. Cash option will remain though,” he said.

STATE OF THE PILOT PROJECT

  • PoS were installed at 42 FPSs
  • By June, 2016, five machines were withdrawn due to malfunctioning
  • By December, 2016, 13 machines were withdrawn due to malfunctioning
  • Problems include: Machines not being user-friendly, poor battery life, problems of mismatching of fingerprints, poor network

The Capital has 2,282 FPSs, with nearly 72.8 lakh people using them. By now, all of them were supposed to distribute essential commodities like wheat, rice and sugar through fingerprint or iris detection of beneficiaries.

However, even the pilot project in which 42 such shops were installed with PoS machines is now gradually being withdrawn. Data accessed by HT revealed that, at present, only 29 FPS have functioning PoS devices.

Food and Supplies Officers (FSOs) have complained that the machines installed in the few FPSs are not working efficiently. “These are not user-friendly and have poor battery life. Many a times fingerprints do not match and poor network is a big problem,” an FSO said on condition of anonymity.

The delay is despite the fact that Delhi is one of the easiest cities to implement the project as it has 100 per cent Aadhaar seeding. This means the government did not have to spend anything extra in getting biometrics of ration card holders as Aadhar cards in Delhi are mandatory for getting enrolled under the National Food Security Act, 2013.

DIGITISATION PLAN

  • 72.8 lakh people provided with food security
  • 2,282 Fair Price shops in Delhi
  • FPS shop owners to get Point of Sale (POS) devices
  • Bio-metric system to include: Iris detection, fingerprint detection and One Time Password options
  • A new feature of cashless transactions also being added
  • Tenders floated thrice. Fourth tender being prepared
  • Project had to be completed by June, 2016 which was extended to October
  • New deadline: March 31, 2017