Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan requested West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday to initiate Biometric and Aadhar authentication of beneficiaries for the distribution of foodgrains among the poor and migrants in the state.
In his letter to the chief minister, Paswan said that there was an immediate need to leverage the Centre's 'One Nation One Ration Card' system so that migrants could access their food security entitlements from any Fair Price Shops (FPS) in the country.
"Under the 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat' package for the poor including migrants, there is an immediate need to leverage the technology-driven 'One Nation One Ration Card' system for enabling the migrant population of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) ration card holders to access their food security entitlements from any Fair Price Shops (FPS) in India. So far, 17 States/UT have enabled this facility for distributing foodgrains to beneficiaries covered under NFSA," the letter stated.
"In your state, so far, about 96 per cent FPSs have ePoS (Electronic Point of Sale) devices and significant Aadhar seeding with 80 per cent ration cards and 73 per cent beneficiaries has been achieved long ago. But, the biometric/Aadhar authentication of beneficiaries for the distribution of foodgrains has not been started in the state. Thus, there is an immediate need to start the same and also to complete the Aadhar seeding with remaining ration cards/beneficiaries in a mission mode manner," the letter further stated.
Paswan also said Aadhar authentication was necessary to ensure that data of all NFSA card holders or beneficiaries was available in the Central Repository, and not only the beneficiaries of other states but migrant beneficiaries of West Bengal can benefit from it anywhere in the country.
"The Aadhar authentication of all beneficiaries is required for effective implementation of national portability. Besides, it is also necessary to ensure that data of all NFSA ration cards/beneficiaries of the state is available in the Central Repository for enabling all eligible NFSA beneficiaries for national portability transactions under 'One Nation, One Ration Card' plan. I would therefore request you to consider an early implementation of 'One Nation, One Ration Card' plan in the state, so that not only the NFSA beneficiaries of other States/UTs but also the migrant beneficiaries of West Bengal anywhere in the country, may benefit from this technology-driven system," the letter added.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) and other Left leaders termed the proposal unfortunate and claimed that the Centre should instead focus on providing immediate food relief to the poor.
West Bengal Food and Supplies Minister, Jyoti Priya Mallick, said that the Mamata Banerjee government had left no stone unturned to provide ration to the poor and needy.
"I think in this time of crisis, instead of giving priority to 'Biometric' and 'Aadhar' authentication, poor should get their ration first and that too without facing any problem," he said.
CPI (M) legislature Sujan Chakraborty said that it was unfortunate that the Union minister was asking for Biometric and Aadhar authentication to provide ration to the migrants and poor.
State BJP leaders claimed that the initiative had been taken to prevent alleged malpractices in the state's PDS system.
On multiple occasions, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh had alleged rampant corruption in distribution of ration among the poor in the state.