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Delhi’s digital ration shops stuck in planning overdrive

The installing of Point of Sale machines, which was originally planned to be completed by March 11, is now unlikely to begin until July.

delhi Updated: Apr 14, 2017 23:28 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times
ration shop,Delhi ration shop,Point of Sale machine
At present, only 28 Fair Price Shops have functioning Point of Sale machines.(HT File Photo)

More than a year since digitisation of ration shops was announced in Delhi, the project has hit a roadblock.

The delay has happened because both the food & supplies (F&S) department and the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi were preparing their own Request for Proposal (RFP) for the same project.

“The F&S department made its proposal and then the DDC drafted another RFP. After a lot of discussion, it was decided to follow the one prepared by the DDC. But eventually, issues emerged in that RFP and they had to be corrected. The finance department is reviewing the file now. All this took a lot of time,” an official said.

Originally planned to be completed by March 31, the work of installing Point of Sale (PoS) machines at Fair Price Shops (FPS) — popularly known as ration shops – is unlikely to begin until July. “The proposal is yet to get clearance from all departments. Once all comments and objections are addressed, only then tenders will be floated,” another official said.

According to sources, it would take at least four months for PoS machines to be operational at a majority of FPSs in the capital. Delhi 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 detection of fingerprint or iris of the beneficiaries.

Card holders suffer

Even the pilot project in which 42 such shops were installed with PoS machines have almost been withdrawn. At present, only 28 FPSs have functioning PoS devices. Food and supplies officers 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 network is a big problem,” an officer said on condition of anonymity.

In all such cases, while ration shop owners should ideally mark such transactions under “Transactions with ‘N’ (No) response from Aadhaar,” they invariably mark them under “Household yet to take ration,” implying that the beneficiary has chosen not to take home her share.

While many ration card holders are visiting these shops to get their monthly supplies, they are returning empty handed. Worse is that the system does not even show that they attempted buying commodities. Instead, it only suggests that the card holder never came to claim her share – which is probably the biggest glitch.

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 Aadhaar cards in Delhi are mandatory for getting enrolled under the National Food Security Act, 2013.

First Published: Apr 14, 2017 23:28 IST