ONORC: Food Security on the Move

Kohima: With more than 114 crore portability transactions recorded since its inception impact of ONORC is perceptible

BY | Friday, 11 August, 2023

Written by Sanjeev Chopra, Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India

Sunil Kumar, a 38-year-old resident of Arrah, Bihar moved to Silvassa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli in 2021 with his family after securing a job as a worker in a packaging company. By leveraging the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) initiative of the Government of India, his family has been able to claim their foodgrain entitlements under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) through a Fair Price Shop (FPS) in Silvassa itself. He is one of the lakhs of migrants who have been enabled by ONORC to meet his family’s basic needs by drawing his monthly ration at the current place of residence.

ONORC has proven to be a saviour for migrants during critical times. During the economic disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it enabled migrants to receive their monthly quota of foodgrains at their place of employment itself, thereby not having to leave their place of work or worry about their food security. Even in cases of migration by a single family member, ONORC provided the option for partial lifting at the destination state, ensuring that the family back home could avail their ration entitlements separately. In fact, during the pandemic alone (i.e., April 2020- December 2022), 91 crore ONORC transactions were recorded, delivering more than 176 Lakh Metric Ton (LMT) of food grains to beneficiaries through ration card portability.

Since its inception as a pilot in four States in August 2019, ONORC has now expanded to all 36 States and Union Territories (UTs) covering more than 80 crore beneficiaries under PMGKAY. This was made possible through technological interventions over the past 9 years including 100% digitization of ration cards in all States and UTs, 100% Aadhaar seeding of ration cards, deployment of electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices in almost 100% of the 5.45 lakh FPSs, biometric authentication through Aadhar and automation of allocation and supply chain processes.

In addition, a secure Central Repository of all ration cards and beneficiaries’ data was established at the Central level to ensure smooth data exchange among different States and UTs. This Repository receives incremental beneficiary data through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) from all States and UTs on a real-time basis. With this centralized system in place, an Aadhaar-based de-duplication process regularly scans for duplicate beneficiaries across States and UTs, which is then flagged to the respective States and UTs for physical verification and resolution.

Moreover, portability transactions are simultaneously recorded in both the Central Repository and the respective state databases. This ensures that beneficiaries’ entitlements are accurately captured and monitored. These technology-driven measures for oversight ensure fair distribution and prevent misuse of ration cards, thus bolstering the effectiveness of ONORC in empowering food security for all.

As we celebrate the fourth anniversary of ONORC, its significance as a reliable social safety net for migrants becomes evident. With more than 114 crore portability transactions recorded since its inception, delivering around 220 LMT foodgrains, the impact of ONORC is perceptible. A study by Asian Development Bank (ADB) on ONORC conducted in September 2022 confirms this, with 86% of migrants reporting the scheme to be beneficial as they did not have to go through the hassle of applying for new ration cards at the destination state. The report states that migrants were able to save an average of Rs 574 per month on expenses for food grains by availing ration through ONORC.

Moreover, ONORC has spawned myriad benefits as its flexibility in allowing beneficiaries to access entitlements from any ration shop has fostered competition among FPS dealers, leading to improved customer satisfaction and reduced malpractices. Further, by deftly tackling the barriers of locational heterogeneity, unequal social relationships, gender biases, and other covert forms of discrimination, ONORC has qualitatively contributed to the goal of food security for all.

Nevertheless, we must acknowledge the existing challenges and focus on realizing the full potential of ONORC. Currently, almost 85% of the inter-state portability transactions are concentrated in Delhi, Maharashtra and Haryana, calling for more awareness campaigns to reach beneficiaries in other regions. The Government of India has recently undertaken a mass publicity campaign through TV spots and radio jingles with the tagline “Aap Jahan Aapka Ration Wahan”. A dedicated 14445 toll-free number for grievance redressal has been made operational in all States and UTs. Further, to ensure there are no issues of stock availability for ONORC beneficiaries at FPSs, dealers have been provided the option to raise requests for extra allocation through the electronic Point of Sale (e-PoS) device itself. Additionally, the ‘Mera Ration’ mobile application is also being revamped to provide a smooth grievance redressal experience for beneficiaries, information on nearby FPSs and transaction history.

To truly unlock ONORC’s potential, active participation from States and UTs is critical. Awareness generation in areas with high in-migration such as industrial sites, construction zones, and other sites of economic activity will help in conveying the benefits and propagate the features of ONORC such as the facility of partial lifting and dispel myths such as the mandatory requirement of a physical ration card to ensure that no beneficiary is denied ration by the FPS dealer. There remains immense scope to fully harness the power of ONORC in our journey toward food security for all.

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