The idea of using the unique identity (UID) programme to reform the public distribution system (PDS) appears to be gathering steam with Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi signalling her support for it.
A Congress official said Gandhi had directed the government to initiate discussions with the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) in this context. Officials from the agriculture ministry, including minister of state K.V. Thomas, met UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani in the latter’s office on Wednesday.
The government’s effort to involve UID — also known as Aadhaar — in PDS comes after the Supreme Court suggested so last month.
Aadhaar aims to provide every resident with a unique identification number that can serve as proof of identity for everything from opening a bank account to receiving government subsidy to getting grains and other products from ration shops, the last link in PDS.
An official in the agriculture ministry confirmed a meeting on Nilekani’s proposal took place on Wednesday. An UIDAI official declined comment.
The government has created a committee to prepare a road-map for the computerisation of PDS and to link it to the Food Corporation of India India (FCI) and UIDAI. Integration with the UID will be a major thrust of the panel, said an official in the department of information technology. FCI’s warehouses are the first link of PDS.
Mint reported the 27-July court order where the bench, while dealing with a report submitted by the justice D.P. Wadhwa committee on PDS, said: “The Union of India may consider computerisation in consultation with the agencies like the UIDAI or other agencies.”
The government was given two weeks to respond to the recommendations of the apex court which also includes exclusion of people living above the poverty line (APL) from the purview of PDS. The SC is scheduled to hear the matter on Thursday. . The report also pointed out that the court’s order had come ahead of a 30 August meeting of the National Advisory Council, or NAC, to review the role of UID in PDS.
(Tracking Hunger is an HT and Mint initiative to investigate and report the struggle to rid India of hunger. You can read previous stories at www.hindustantimes.com/trackinghunger)