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.

Key numbers for a frontline perspective on the rollout of ONORCas experienced by ration card holders and PDS dealers

Ration Card Holders’ Experience in the 5 Study States

  • 12% of households with a ration card tried to use PDS portability recently; 20% of migrant households with a ration card tried to use PDS portability recently.

  • 6% of all ration card holders who had not used PDS portability would like to do so in the future; at least one-fifth of them had not used it, because they were unaware of ration portability.

  • 12% of households that tried availing rations using portability experienced a transaction failure compared to 9% of households overall who experienced failures (for portability and non-portability transactions combined) when trying to collect their rations.

  • 4% of households that tried to access rations under portability could not do so, as compared to 1% of households using PDS overall.

PDS Dealers’ Experience

  • 97% of PDS dealers knew that ration portability was possible; 73% knew that inter-state ration portability was allowed.

  • 66% of PDS dealers reported receiving ration card holders not registered to their FPS; 28% of these PDS dealers were unable to serve at least some portability customers, primarily due to technology failures or because they feared running out of stocks.

  • 10% of PDS dealers ran out of stock at least once in the three months preceding the survey, often due to demand fluctuation under portability

  • 32% of PDS dealers felt that portability would make their business model unviable, at least some of the time.

  • 52% of PDS dealers did not use exception handling methods when ePoS-based transactions failed due to biometric authentication or connectivity failure.