Fulfilling the promise of ONORC

The One Nation One Ration Card scheme, launched in 2019, shows potential to be one of the most far-reaching reforms to India’s Public Distribution System. Historically, low income households have relied upon the PDS for food security since its creation in the 1940s and this new initiative built around the idea that food security benefits should be ‘portable’ could unlock manifold benefits. Could this be the means by which a migrant worker from Bihar who travels to a new state in search of work may buy food grains as per his or her entitlement at a Fair Price Shop of their choice rather than be forced to pay higher prices at regular shops? While not an intended goal of the scheme, might the ONORC allow even non-migrant citizens new conveniences and an efficient way to use a Fair Price Shop of their choice? With the support of Omidyar Network India, Dalberg released an extensive study titled 'Fulfilling the promise of One Nation One Ration Card'. It is among the first comprehensive reports, to highlight the impact and experience of ONORC on beneficiaries as well as PDS dealers — and acknowledges the gaps.

Fulfilling the promise of ONORC: 3 recommendations on how to bridge the gaps for both beneficiaries and dealers

  • Increase Awareness of Portability

    Inform beneficiaries about the availability of portability through their preferred channels: PDS dealers and news media.

    Support general efforts with focused awareness campaigns for high-priority groups, such as migrant construction workers and marginalized women.

    An estimated 880, 000 households expressed a desire to use portability but did not know they could access it. Raising awareness could unlock benefits for them.

    In addition: clearly inform PDS dealers about the possibility of inter-state portability.

  • Improve Portability for Beneficiaries

    Improve connectivity for FPS
    Upgrade technology in FPS to ensure better connectivity. E.g., ensure that all ePoS devices are 4G-enabled or extend high-speed connectivity to FPS.

    This could help up to 210,000 households per month who experience transaction failures due to poor connectivity when attempting to collect rations under portability. It could support 1.3 million households per month that experience poor connectivity under PDS in general.

    Implement exception handling for portability transactions when biometric authentication doesn’t work
    State governments could consider developing and notifying clear rules for providing rations to portability customers when poor connectivity or authentication errors lead to failed attempts to collect rations. The Union government could provide support by developing model rules.

    Once the rules are notified, raise awareness of PDS dealers and beneficiaries to ensure that all parties know how exception handling works.

    This could help up to 240,000 households per month who could not access their rations at all using portability. It could support 650,000 households per month that could not get their food at all when availing rations under PDS overall.

    Ensure that ration cards are issued, updated and seeded, especially for vulnerable groups
    Close the remaining seeding gap through seeding camps and targeted seeding drives at FPS, focused on districts with the largest gaps.

    Simplify procedures to update or correct ration cards.

    Prioritize issuing ration cards for vulnerable women; simplify procedures and reduce the documentation burden for them.

  • Improve Portability for PDS Dealers

    Allow flexible stock requisiton for PDS dealers
    Implement a system to let PDS dealers requisition additional stocks when they run low, so that they can meet fluctuating demand. Andhra Pradesh has implemented such a model, which can offer learnings for other states.

    Improve demand planning by using data analytics to detect patterns and shifts in portability uptake and to predict demand more accurately. This could help better manage procurement, allocation, storage, and distribution of rations.

    Together, these measures could improve availability of rations and reduce PDS dealers’ fear of stockouts, which is currently an important deterrent to serving portability customers.