2022 JUL 1

Mains   > Agriculture   >   Storage, transport & marketing   >   Public distribution system


  • Recently, Assam has become the 36th State/UT to implement One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC). With this, the ONORC plan is successfully implemented in all the 36 states/UTs, making food security portable throughout the country.


  • The objective of the programme is to empower all NFSA beneficiaries to become AtmaNirbhar for their food security anywhere in the country, through the portability of their existing ration cards, enabling them to seamlessly lift their entitled subsidised foodgrains (in part or full) from any Fair Price Shop of their choice, across the country.
  • This also enables their family members to lift balance/required amount of foodgrains on the same ration card at their native/ any place from the FPS of their choice.
  • During the last two years of COVID-19 pandemic, ONORC plan has significantly contributed in ensuring subsidized food grains to NFSA (National Food Security Act) beneficiaries, especially migrant beneficiaries.
  • One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) is one-of-its-kind Citizen Centric initiative in the country, which is swiftly implemented in a short-span of time covering about 80 crore beneficiaries, after being initiated in August 2019.
  • ‘MERA RATION’ mobile application has been rolled out by the government to take maximum advantage of the ONORC plan.
    • The mobile app is providing a host of useful real time information to the beneficiaries and is available in 13 languages.
    • So far, the App has been downloaded more than 20 Lakh times from Google play store.


  • Universality of PDS:
    • ONORC will provide universal access to PDS food grains for the beneficiaries within the country.
  • Portability of social security:
    • The Economic Survey of India 2017 estimated that inter-state migration in India was close to 9 million annually between 2011 and 2016.
    • Most of these migrant labourers are employed in the informal sectors, making it extremely hard for welfare delivery. With the introduction of ONORC system, they can avail the benefits anywhere in the country.
  • Empowers consumers:
    • ONORC will give the beneficiaries the opportunity to opt for the dealer of their choice, without the troubles of lengthy paperwork.
    • This also makes the dealers more responsible, as now they have to fear the loss of customers.
  • Reduce leakages:
    • Digitization of the process through Aadhaar-linked ration cards and smart cards can eliminate ineligible, bogus and duplicate beneficiaries and reduce diversion of food grains.
  • Better targeting:
    • Since the beneficiary identifier is linked to the Aadhar database, by slicing and dicing of the data, it is feasible to determine various other welfare benefits a person is entitled to.
    • For eg: The ONORC can be used by state governments to provide relief to migrants during crisis such as calamities and pandemics.
  • Personalisation:
    • This mechanism allows the beneficiary to personalise the benefits she wants to draw.
    • One can buy their share of entitled food grains from wherever they are based, while the rest of her family members can purchase subsidised food grains from their ration dealer back home.
  • Achieve hunger-free India:
    • India is currently ranked 101 out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index (2021). The ONORC scheme will help address this poor state of hunger in India.
    •  It will also help achieve the target set under SDG 2: Ending hunger by 2030.
  • Planned development and migration policies:
    • The centralized data repository is useful in identifying the trends in migration in India.
    • It will give a better picture of the major sources and destinations of migrations, as well as the temporal variations in migrations.
    • This can be useful in developing policies for planned urban development and management of migration in India.  


  • Inter-state issues:
    • Every state has its own rules and subsidy schemes for the Public Distribution System. States like Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh run a universal or near-universal PDS. But the introduction of ONORC scheme will disrupt these systems. Also, different states will have different rates and this non-uniformity will be a big challenge.
  • Logistics:
    • The centre allocates food grains to states on the basis of the identified BPL population, the availability of food grains stocks, and the quantity of food grains lifted by states for distribution under TPDS.
    • The FPSs receives monthly quota based on the number of people assigned to it.
    • However, the ONORC could disrupt this, as some states and FPSs may have to cater to more numbers of cards while others cater to less.
  • Data deficiency:
    • The success of the system relies on data available with governments regarding migrant populations and various trends in migration.
    • However, neither the central nor the state governments have such exact data on migrant population.
  • Technological barriers:
    • IT-enabled services are crucial for the functioning of the scheme.
    • However, while PoS machines have been made available in FPSs, internet connectivity continues to be a major problem.
    • There are also technical issues related to biometrics, such as getting accurate readings of fingerprints.
    • It also remains unclear as to how the cards will be split between the migrant and his family.
  • Shortage of storage facilities:
    • Open ended procurement of grains has already resulted in the FCI holding on to more grain stocks than it can store.
    • Also, there are stark regional differences in the availability of storage facilities within India.
    • The introduction of ONORC without augmenting the storage capacities will result in poor quality and heavy loss of food grains.
  • Ignores dietary choices:
    • Food choices in India are diverse. A migrant from North India working in south India may prefer wheat over rice. However, such preferences are not considered in the present system.
    • Also, rice and wheat continues to be the focal point of PDS, while nutricereals and local products remain ignored.
  • Inclusion/exclusion errors:
    • The scheme can only help those who have access to the PDS. The announcement under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package to include eight crore migrants in the PDS suggests that many still lie outside the system.
    • Also, the imposition of Aadhaar in the existing PDS has created problems of exclusion and higher transaction costs for the poor.


  • Documentation: There is an urgent need to collect data on the migrants, which thoroughly covers their socio-economic backgrounds. States should collaborate among themselves to precisely map the migration networks, studying, recording and regularly updating labour migration patterns.
  • Dynamic logistics: The allocation of the food grains to states should be dynamic, based on the lifting of food grains captured on a monthly basis across states. On the storage and distribution front, FCI godowns should operate in tandem, considering the needs arising in particular states.
  • Adopt successful practices: For eg: The Rashtriya Swathya Bima Yojana (RSBY) has split the unique insurance card to help the migrant as well as the family members who were left behind. This can be adopted for splitting up of ration cards between the migrants and their families.
  • Augment storage facilities: Through measures such as the Grameen Bhandaran yojana and PPP models, storage facilities should be further expanded.
  • Move towards choice-based PDS: Experts have noted that TPDS could be replaced with choice based PDS, such as in the form of cash transfers or food coupons. This will empower the people to choose the food they desire.
  • Social auditing can be made mandatory for the scheme so as to ensure its efficiency
  • Expand portability of schemes: Other social security measures such as Integrated Child Development Services, Mid-Day Meals, immunisation, health care and other facilities should also be made portable.


Q. “In India, where millions move across states for work, full implementation of the ONORC scheme will be a huge step in enabling food security”. Discuss?