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Dry ATMs not a worry, Gujarat’s fair price shops double up as cash vendors

Since January, the Gujrat government has provided access to this portal to over 17,000 fair price shops under public distribution system (PDS) across the state.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2017 16:36 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times
Gujarat,Digital India,Demonetisation
Villagers in Gujarat have been going to fair price shops to get cash.(Sameer Sehgal/HT File Photo)

Around 6 pm when Dinesh Prajapati’s wife asks for Rs 5,000, he isn’t worried about arranging cash despite the fact that the lone bank in their village Jaspur in Gandhinagar district has closed for the day. He goes to the village fair price shop to “withdraw” the amount.

Using Dinesh’s Aadhar card number, which is linked to his bank account, and matching his thumb impression, shop owner Amrutbhai Prajapati transfers the amount to his account from Dinesh’s. He closes the transaction by handing over Rs 5,000 in cash to Dinesh.

“I used DigiPay on the Common Service Centre (CSC) portal. All nationalised and private banks are linked to the portal,” Amrutbhai tells HT.

But Amrutbhai’s fair price shop isn’t the only one of its kind in Gujarat. Since January, the state government has provided access to this portal to over 17,000 fair price shops under public distribution system (PDS) across the state. A host of services like booking bus tickets, mobile recharge, DTH recharge and cash withdrawal can be availed through this portal which was launched by the UPA-II government to provide various e-services to people in rural India.

Post-demonetisation, the NDA government added PDS to the CSC ambit for distribution of wheat, rice (under Food Security Act) and other rationed commodities like kerosene to the beneficiaries through a cashless system. Gujarat has become the first state to introduce this.

“Usually, the rush for PDS items lasts for the initial days of the month. But after 10th of every month, people’s focus shifts to other e-services,” says Amrutbhai who while showing the records boasts how his store is now a one-stop shop for various services.

“Gujarat already had bar-coded ration cards to check pilferage. Now, the facility of cashless PDS has been introduced. All that a beneficiary needs is a bank account linked to his Aadhar number,” says M K Das, principal secretary, Food, Civil Supply and Consumer Affairs Department.

According to the department, the system has been installed in almost all 18,000 villages of Gujarat, which has over one crore beneficiaries. As these centres were already equipped with computers and printers, the state government had to add only thumb impression scanners.

“We are now planning to install iris scanners as well,” adds Das.

First Published: Feb 25, 2017 16:36 IST