JUSTICE WADHWA COMMITTEE

 

ON

 

PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM (PDS)

 

 

REPORT ON COMPUTERISATION OF PDS OPERATIONS

INDEX

S.NO.

 

PARTICULARS

PAGE

A

Preface

i-iii

1.

Introduction

1

2.

Smart card

6

3.

Point of Sale device (PoS)

7

4.

Charging the PoS device

9

5.

Using biometrics as a tool for authentication of identity

 

of beneficiaries.

 

 

14

6.

Connectivity

16

7.

Modes of automating PDS operations

19

8.

Weighment

21

9.

Prescribing of uniform standards

22

10.

Computerisation initiatives by various States

25

11.

Other modes of automating the distribution process

 

Ř      Radio Frequency Identification Tags

Ř      Global Positioning System

Ř      Food Stamps

 

 

34

 

35

 

36

12.

Suggestions from NIC

40

13

Conclusions

43

 

 

 

                                                   PREFACE

 

 

In the matter:

                  Writ Petition (C) No. 196/2001 – People’s Union for

                   Civil Liberties  V/S   Union of  India  and Ors.

 

1.     Large scale corruption resulting from diversion and leakages of food grains meant for the poor populace of this country is the bane of the targeted Public Distribution System.

 

2.     The Committee in its report for the Government of Delhi and further reports, now separately submitted, for the States of Jharkhand , Karnataka & Orissa has recommended least human intervention and end to end automation and computerization of the complete PDS chain.

 

  1. Considering the magnitude of the malaise affecting the System the Committee has felt the need to give a separate report suggesting introduction of computerization of  the entire distribution chain, right from  the procurement process initiated by the Food Corporation of India  and  ending with retail distribution by  the FPS dealers .

 

  1. With a view to evaluate the different modes and tools of computerization the Committee held discussions with senior officers of National Informatics Center, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Department of Telecommunications, Bharat Sanchar Nigam  Ltd  as well as private entities  concerned with  solar energy, besides discussion  with representatives of the Governments of Haryana Karnataka Chhatisgarh Jharkhand Orissa and Chandigarh .  The Committee also examined the reports  on computerization of various models presently being implemented by some other States  The

report, therefore, comprehensively deals with the various modes of automating PDS operations. 

 

5.    The Committee thanks Dr. B.K. Gairola, Director General  and , Ms Ranjana Nagpal, Senior Technical Director of the National Informatic Center, Dr. B. Bhargava, Director Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Mr. P.K. Panigrahi, Senior DDG(BW) Department of Tele Communication, Mr. D.P. Singh, General Manager, BSNL, Mr. Ajay Bhattacharya, Administrator, Universal Service Obligation Fund,  Food Secretaries of the Government of Haryana, Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh who shared their valuable views , opinions and  information with the Committee during the study.  The valuable inputs received from them have been incorporated in the present report.  This report  is the result of that.

 

6.    The Committee also record its appreciation of the help rendered by Ms. Jasleen Kaur, representative of Price Water Cooper House, Mr. Shobit Verma, Director, Expedien E – Solutions Ltd, Mr. Amit Chugh of Cosmos Ignite Innovations and Mr. Ravi Rangan of Comat Technologies, Bangalore and their attending various meetings. The Committee had examined the DPR (Detailed Project Report) of Expedien E–Solutions Ltd. And Price Water Cooper House, the agencies respectively appointed by the State of Haryana and Chandigarh Administration for preparation of the DPR on the implementation of the Smart Card system in the State of Haryana and Chandigarh Union Territory.

 

  1. Conclusion of the report is given at the end.

 

  1. Considering  however, that there is large scale diversion of food-grains  meant for the poor, it is suggested that directions  may be issued to the Secretary, Department of Food & Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution; Director General, National Informatics  Centre; Secretary, New &  Renewable  Energy; Secretary  Department of Telecommunications  and Administrator, Universal Service Obligation Fund to take immediate steps towards computerization of the PDS.

 

 

 

 

          (Justice D.P. Wadhwa)

Chairman

Central Vigilance Committee on

Public Distribution System

Delhi

Dated: 23.2.2009

 

 

 

REPORT

 

 

Introduction:

 

1.       The PDS Control Order, 2001 came into existence almost eight years ago. The Targeted Public Distribution System had been in operation since 1997.  It was realized that the large scale diversion can be curbed by computerization and therefore provision was made for providing computerized codes to the Fair Price Shops (FPS) and monitoring the functioning of the Public Distribution System at the FPS level through the computer network of the National Informatics Center (NIC) installed in the District NIC centers.

 

          The Committee in its report submitted to the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 21.8.2007, pertaining to Delhi, had suggested that PDS operations be computerized and human intervention be reduced to the extent possible, so as to check the diversions and leakages which plague the system at present.

 

Recognising the fact that the need of the hour is the end to end computerization of the Public Distribution System, the Committee is of the view that if the disbursement to the beneficiaries in the State can be equated to the allocation to the State, there can be no diversion. In order to achieve this objective the first and foremost is the automation of allocation process at all stages. The State Government gets allocation of food grain from the Central Government though the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The NIC has installed and running the application called IISFM at all the FCI centers. The allocation is received by the States in their godowns and then the State makes District wise allocation. The District Supply Officer then makes allocation to each Block/Taluk, from where allocation is made to each FPS. It is necessary that each of these steps is computerized. The information is conveyed through the District NIC centers to the Food and Supplies department of the State and to the FCI. The allocation for the next month at each level should be made on the basis of the in formation so collected through the computer network.

 

In the present Public Distribution System (PDS),  paper ration cards are issued to eligible families and wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene oil etc are being offered at subsidised prices as per their eligibility recorded in the ration cards.  The record of eligibility and transactions is maintained manually both in the ration cards and the register maintained in the fair price shops.  This record keeping is not foolproof and is prone to human errors and tampering.  Foodgrains are transferred from FCI store to States and then to regional levels.  There is lot of pilferage at every level and no foolproof central monitoring system is there.  Other deficiencies of this system are:

 

·        Multiple ration cards being issued under a single name

·        Faulty system of issue and record keeping

·        Pilferage - PDS foodgrains find way to market and all the lot don’t reach the eligible/needy person

·        No bio-matric identification for the users

·        No central monitoring system to track the carriage trucks

·        The delivery mechanism has no RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device)

 

          There is a need for foolproof monitoring system starting from central store to fair price shops covering transactions at all levels and transport.

 

          The Committee is of the opinion that the ration card database should be digitized and distribution to the beneficiary should be made after biometric identification. However, necessary safeguards must be put in place to ensure that the biometric details of beneficiaries which have been captured for the purpose of automation of the PDS should not be used for non PDS purposes. This would mean that a smart card having the biometric finger prints of the beneficiary will have to be prepared and used for distribution.

 

          In order to achieve this business rules at all levels have to be identified and automated thereby optimizing the internal operations and communications. The following steps have to be integrated to cover the complete food chain.

 

·        State wise allocation of food grains by Central Government.

·        District wise allocation of food grains by State Government.

·        Block/ Taluk wise allocation of food grains by District Administration.

·        Storage of food grains in godowns

·        Off take of food grains against allocations

·        Distribution of Food grains to the Fair Price Shops.

·        Sale to beneficiary

 

          The Committee held discussions with Dr. B.K Gairla Director General and Ms. Ranjana Nagpal Senior Technical Director, of the National Informatics Centre (NIC). The Committee was informed that the Central Government had approved the implementation of a smart card based computerization project in the state of Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh on a pilot basis which is to be funded by the Central Government. To begin with three districts of Haryana have been identified. In terms of the detailed project report made available to the Committee, the smart card is to be used in conjunction with a hand held battery operated device referred to as a Point of Sale (PoS) device.

 

          Keeping in view the fact that the supply of electricity in the remote, rural areas of the country is erratic and undependable, the Committee enquired from the NIC as to how the battery contained in the PoS device would be recharged when electricity supply was not available. The Committee was informed by the NIC that it had nothing to do with the setting up of the necessary infrastructure. The Committee found this response extremely disturbing in as much as the availability of avenues for charging the PoS and making connectivity available are essential requirements for the successful implementation of the computerized model. The Committee therefore in the attempt to identify alternative sources of energy as well as means to ensure that connectivity for uploading of data is provided held discussions with officials from, Dr. B. Bhargava Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India, Mr. P.K Panigrahi Senior DDG (BW) Department of Telecommunications, Mr. D.P Singh General Manager BSNL, Mr. Ajay Bhattacharya Administrator Universal Service Obligation Fund, Private entities involved in the field of solar energy. The Committee also held discussions with representatives of the Governments of Haryana, Karnataka, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttrakhand, Chandigarh and examined reports of computerization models being implemented or contemplated by other States.

 

          The Committee examined the implementation of a model wherein the end-user/beneficiary can be serviced using a PoS device which can be used with a smart card or only with biometrics or with both. Each of these concepts are being described herein below,

 

2.       Smart Card:

Smart cards are secure electronic devices which are used for storing data pertaining to the beneficiary, in a secure form. It is pertinent to note that only authorized persons can view the data stored on the card and/or write information thereon. When a smart card is used in PDS operations, the following beneficiary data can be stored on the card,

 

(i)      the name of the beneficiary, family members,

(ii)      address of the beneficiary,

(iii)     biometrics of the beneficiary and family members,

(iv)     category in which the beneficiary falls (i.e. APL, BPL, AAY) and the monthly entitlement

A smart card resembles a credit card in size and shape. Integrated circuits/microprocessor are embedded in these cards to enable them to process data. These cards can receive inputs, which are processed — by way of the Integrated Circuit Card applications — and deliver an output. The card can be embedded with a hologram to avoid counterfeiting. [1]

3.       Point of Sale device (PoS):

A PoS device is a single fully integrated machine having sufficient memory to store transaction data over a period of time. The objective of using this device is to track off-take of commodities by beneficiaries with precision and to thereby eliminate avenues for diversion of stock. The device has the capability of carrying out sales and billing transactions, and to print the receipt of a completed transaction.

 

The other main features of a PoS device are:

·                    It is powered by a removable, rechargeable high capacity Li-ion battery, which supports 170-200 transactions. The power requirement for the device is 20 W (12 V, 1.8 A) when a transaction is being performed. This device should be able to function for 5-6 hours before it requires to be recharged.[2]

·                    It is a tamper proof device to protect data.

·                    Enables authentication of the biometric fingerprint of beneficiaries.

·                    Stores data of transactions carried out in the month.

·                    Can function off-line and the stored data can be transferred subsequently as and when connectivity becomes available.

4.       Charging the PoS device:

In order for the PoS device to function, a crucial requirement is the availability of a dependable source of energy for recharging the battery contained in the device. The PoS has an inbuilt 12 V battery of 1.8 AH. Keeping in mind the fact that a PoS device if deployed as part of the effort to computerise PDS operations, would be required to function even in areas where electricity supply is not available or is erratic and undependable, the Committee examined the use of alternative sources of energy for charging the PoS.

 

          The Committee found that solar power is one such dependable and readily available source of energy, which can be harnessed for this purpose. In India the annual global solar radiation is about 5 KWh/sq m per day with about 2300-3200 sun-shine hours per year. Solar radiation represents the earth’s most abundant energy source.  The perennial source of solar energy provides unlimited supply, has no negative impact on the environment.  The solar photovoltaic (PV) modules convert solar radiation from the sun into electrical energy in the form of direct current (DC).  Converting solar energy into electricity is the answer to the mounting power problems in the rural areas.  The Committee also studied the Solar Insolation in India.

Solar Insolation diagram of India

 

 

The Committee is of the view that solar power can be used for charging the PoS device.  The Committee found that there are other available systems which provide reliable power for the PoS with three days autonomy i.e. it can operate with 3 continuous days without sunlight.  These solar power packs consists of a solar PV panel (10 Wp) battery (12 V, 7 AH) and Charge Controller.  These power packs can be charged by both AC mains and through the SPV. An estimation of the rating calculations for the power requirements of the PoS have been done for the benefit of the  Committee by Mr. P.K Panigrahi, Senior DDG (BW) Department of Telecommunications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating calculations- Retail ration Shops in rural areas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Load

Power

Quantity

Total Power

Duration

Energy

 

 

 

Watt

No.

Watt

Hour

Watt-Hour

Amp. Hr (12 Volt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STT

20

1

20

1

20

1.67

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battery requirement=

 

AH/.85x.95x.95 =

 

2

AH

 

(85%battery efficiency, 95% electronics, 5% dust etc)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Capacity of SPV

 

 

=

10

Wp

 

 Capacity of Battery(3 days autonomy)

=

7

AH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of Solar system

 

=

5,000/-

 

 

 

Area of SPV panel

=

1 sq ft (1' x 1')

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          The Committee held discussions with Dr. B. Bhargava, Director, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India, who was of the opinion that solar chargers would be the best option for recharging the PoS in areas where the electricity supply is erratic. He informed the Committee that a solar charger essentially is comprised of a solar panel and a small unit which would provide power supply of 220V.[3]

 

          The Committee has been informed that BSNL has provided Battery Banks of about 200 AH at 48 volts in small rural exchanges together with 10/15 Kva generators run on diesel. BSNL informed the Committee that these locations could possibly be used for charging the PoS. The Department of Telecommunications is also providing 10,000 villages with satellite telephones which have 100 Watts SPV Panel which charges a 12 volts/ 42 AH Battery to counter the non availability of electricity. These SPV can also be utilized for charging the PoS, wherever they are available.

 

In this respect the Committee also held discussions with Mr. Amit Chugh, Founder and CEO, Cosmo Ignite Innovations (viz. a Solar Lamp Company), with regard to the functionalities of the Solar lamp manufactured by his company. The objective of inviting Mr. Chugh was to explore the possibility of using the solar panel developed by his company for charging the Li-on battery contained in the hand held Point of Sale (PoS) device. Mr. Chugh confirmed that the solar panel which was used for charging the battery which powered the lamp could be adapted for charging the hand held Point of Sale device. He also stated that the battery could be charged in a time frame of 4-6 hours depending upon the weather conditions and the back up time of the fully charged battery would be approximately 6 hours. Mr. Chugh further stated that the size of the solar panel could be modified depending upon the requirements. He stated that his company does not supply the solar panel separately. Mr. Chugh stated that the market price of solar lamp and panel was Rs. 2500/-.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.       Using biometrics as a tool for authentication of identity of beneficiaries:

 

 

In order to curb diversions and to ensure that stock under PDS is issued to actual bona fide beneficiaries, a template of the biometric details of beneficiaries can be captured and stored in the PoS device and/or in the smart card and prior to performing the sale transaction at the Fair Price Shop, the biometrics can be cross checked with the pre-stored template as a method of authentication of the identity of the beneficiary.

 

Biometric identification is the process of identifying a person through personal characteristics such as iris and retinal patters, fingerprints, voice etc. Since these are unique characteristics which are individual specific and therefore differ from person to person, they form a secure method of authentication/verification of identity.

 

The PDS in its current form has failed to achieve its intended goal of providing food security to the needy owing to large scale diversion of food grains. Such diversion is made possible by the presence of ghost ration cards in circulation and enables retailers to siphon off stock by making fictitious transaction entries reflecting sales, without issuing any stock. It is possible to weed out these bogus/ghost cards by,

 

(i)                Conducting a comprehensive independent survey of the population in order to identify the intended beneficiaries,

(ii)              By capturing their biometrics (for the purposes of the present report it is suggested that fingerprints be captured) and storing the same on a central data base.  These can then be cross-verified with the finger print of the beneficiary at the time of issue of stock.

(iii)            Implementing a system which eliminates the reliance on human interaction for identification of a beneficiary.

(iv)     However, necessary safeguards must be put in place to ensure that the biometric details of beneficiaries which have been captured for the purpose of automation of the PDS should not be used for non PDS purposes.

 

Once this process is completed it will result in the elimination of multiple/counterfeit cards in as much as PDS commodities would be disbursed only when the biometrics of the beneficiary at the retail outlet matches the data stored on the database.

 

6.  Connectivity:

 

The Committee is of the view that connectivity which is required for making PDS web enabled could be provided by making use of infrastructure that has been/is being established by the Government of India under the Common Services Centers Scheme and the Universal Service Obligation Fund.

 

A.               Infrastructure established under the State Wide Area Network’s:

 

One of the core infrastructure components of the National E governance plan of the Central Government is the State Wide Area Networks (SWAN). The Department of Information Technology, Government of India (hereafter referred to as DIT), is the nodal department for SWAN implementation in the 29 States and 6 Union Territories. The SWAN Scheme proposes to establish a minimum of 2 Mbps connectivity up to the block level through extension and creation of NICNET/SWANs across the country.[4] As mentioned above, visits of the Committee to different States revealed that at present in Karnataka connectivity is available till the hobli level and in Orissa connectivity is available till the block level.

B      Infrastructure set up using the Universal Service Obligation Fund:

 

The Central Government established the USO Fund with the fundamental objective of providing access to ‘basic’ telegraph services. Subsequently, the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act 2006, was passed on 29.12.2006, to amend the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, so as to enable provision of all types of telegraph services.  

 

During the 6 years from 2002-2008 the funds which have been disbursed have been utilised for providing in Stream-I and II wireline services namely,

(a)      Village Public Telephones (VPT’s)/Rural Community telephones (RCP’s)

(b)     Rural Household Telephones (RDEL’s)

 

The Rules for administration of the Fund known as Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules were originally notified on 26.03.2004. Thereafter on 17.11.2006 the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules 2006 were notified to enable support for mobile services and broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas of the country.[5] New schemes are being introduced under Streams III & IV, which contemplate the creation of all types of rural telecommunication infrastructure, by providing wireless services such as,

 

(a)      setting up of infrastructure to provide mobile services in rural areas,

(b)     provision of broadband connectivity in villages in a phased manner. It is pertinent to note that this scheme aims to provide broadband connectivity Gram Panchayats, Primary Health Centres, Schools. It is proposed to utilize the existing wireless and landline infrastructure to provide these services.

(c)     starting with the State of Assam it is proposed to improve the Optical Fibre Cable network between Block HQ’s and District HQ’s.

In Stream V the Central Government is to identify items for the creation and development of general infrastructure in rural areas.

It appears to the Committee that it is possible to make available the infrastructure being set up using the USOF for PDS operations also.

7.     Modes of automating PDS operations:

 

Keeping in mind the fact that connectivity might not be available in the remote areas of the country, the Committee examined the feasibility of model which can function both in the off-line and online modes.

 

On-line mode- Each stage in the distribution chain is connected to the Central Server containing the data base.   Connectivity may be provided either through a landline or through GSM/CDMA device. In this mode the infrastructure being set up using the USOF such as Village Public Telephones (VPT’s) can be used for providing connectivity.

 

Off-line mode - In this mode owing to the fact that the infrastructure of connecting each and every outlet situated in remote corners of the country, has not been put in place and is an on-going process, transaction details of the retail outlet can be stored on the PoS/Smart Card allotted to each retailer. These devices contain sufficient memory for storage of one month’s transaction details at the expiry of each fortnight/month the retailer is required to take the PoS device/Smart Card to the nearest point where connectivity to the central server is available, which may be either the Gram Panchayat/Block level and transfer details to the central data base.  The Committee in the course of its visits to different States found that in Karnataka connectivity is available till the hobli[6]  level and is expected to be available till the gram panchayat level soon. In Orissa connectivity is available till the block level. The uploading of data can be done through these pockets where connectivity is available at present.

 

8.       Weighment:

 

Another important facet of an efficient and transparent distribution system is the mechanism which is used for weighment. In the system as it exists today, weighment is required to be done at 3 of 4 stages in the distribution chain,

(i)      At the FCI when stock is released to the transporters,

(ii)      At the whole sale point

(iii)     At the retail point

(iii)     At the time of sale of the stock to the beneficiary.

The Committee during its visits to storage godowns and retail outlets in different States found that the weighing is done manually using a beam scale. The Food Corporation of India uses an electronic weighbridge to weigh each truck carrying the specified food articles as it leaves the godown to deliver stock to the retail outlets. However, the godown itself consists of different units in which the stocks are stored. Even the FCI uses the manual beam scale instead of the electronic scales while loading the stock. Weighing done in this manner is by and large unreliable and since it is completely dependant on human intervention it is susceptible to manipulation which once again creates the window of opportunity for diversion.

 

The Committee is of the view that it is imperative that weighing be done using electronic scales at each stage and the weighment mechanism be integrated with the  PoS device. This will mean that the quantity which is being transferred from one stake holder to another in the distribution chain is automatically reflected on the smart card. As an additional safeguard the weigh bridge at the storage godown should be linked to the internet, so that the precise details of stock, being dispatched, i.e. quantity, date of dispatch etc. are readily available for viewing by the beneficiaries.

9.                 Prescribing of Uniform standards:

 

          The Committee is of the view that uniform standards must be prescribed for the three critical aspects of the computerized model, i.e. the PoS device, the smart cards and the capturing of biometric details, in as much as this is required for ensuring inter-compatibility and to promote connectivity and operational efficiency. A Committee must be set up, consisting of experts from the NIC, DOT, USOF, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, National Institute for Smart Government for promoting National level connectivity and for prescribing uniform standards for software and hardware components which should be binding on States.

 

SCOSTA specifications for smart cards:

The Govt. of India is deploying the smart card technology in various applications such as Indian Driving Licences, Vehicle Registration Certificates, National Identity, Electronic Passports etc. A technical Sub-committee was set up to draw up operating system specifications for the smart card based Indian Driving Licences (DL) and Vehicle Registration Certificates (RC) on in June 2001. Smart Card Operating System for Transport Applications (SCOSTA) specifications[7] were defined primarily by IIT Kanpur alongwith this committee. The SCOSTA specification is largely compliant with the international ISO 7816 standard (parts 4 to 9) for smart cards. Subsequently, the standards were enhanced to support secure messaging which is necessary in many applications involving contact-less communications. The enhanced standard (SCOSTA-CL) was defined by IIT Kanpur and was released to public in July 2006. The first major application of this standard is the e-Passport that was launched in India on June 25, 2008. The SCOSTA-CL standard is upward compatible to old SCOSTA standard. [8]

Standards for bio-metric identification

 

The Committee is of the view that in order to make tracking of individual beneficiaries using biometric identification effective uniform standards have to be prescribed. Some of the criteria which should be kept in mind while prescribing standards are,[9]

 

(i)      Selection of fingers: Studies have revealed that large scale identification systems require two fingers, which could be the thumb (which being larger, contain more information), forefinger (are more ergonomic and are more varied across population).

 

(ii)      Image quality: standards should be prescribed for image resolution and size

 

10.     Computerisation of PDS operations- Initiatives by different States.

 

 

          The Committee examined the steps being taken by different States for computerization of PDS operations. These are being described in brief herein below,

 

(i)      Haryana

The proposal is to issue smart cards to each level of the distribution chain, i.e. the transporter, the FPS dealer and the consumer. In Haryana the agency which is performing the task of transportation of food grains from the godown to the FPS dealer is called the CONFED.

 

In the proposed system, when the CONFED transporters take delivery from the godown, Depot Holder wise distribution information (i.e. the FPS details and quantity allotted) are loaded on the transporter’s smart card using the STT and 2 receipts are generated one for the transporter and the other is the copy for the godown in charge. In this system only a data entry is made and the weight of the stock loaded on the truck is not cross checked using an electronic weigh bridge in conjunction with the smart card. In order to eliminate human intervention to the maximum extent electronic weigh bridges should be used at all whole sale storage points and the stock loaded in the trucks should be checked using the electronic weigh bridge in conjunction with the smart card.

 

When the truck reaches the FPS to deliver the stock, the CONFED transporter inserts his card in the Depot Holder’s STT. Stock gets automatically transferred in the Depot Holder’s terminal, the transaction report gets stored in the Transporters card and 2 receipt’s are generated, i.e. one for the FPS dealer and the other for the transporter.

 

The consumer comes to the FPS for purchase of food grains, inserts his smart card in the STT, places his finger on the terminal for bio-metric verification. After the details are verified, the entitlement and price payable are displayed on the terminal. The FPS dealer thereafter completes the transaction by issuing the desired quantity to the consumer and the details of the transaction are loaded on the smart card and a paper receipt is simultaneously issued to the consumer. The system does not provide for authentication by the consumer, prior to the completion of the transaction as confirmation that the correct quantity of the stock has been issued to him. The system should verify the card of the consumer on its being inserted in the STT and there should be no need to verify the biometric details at this stage. It is only after the desired quantity is entered by the FPS dealer in the STT and the same is received by the consumer, should the consumer be required to authenticate the transaction by placing his finger on the designated spot on the STT, thereby confirming that the transaction has been completed to his satisfaction. If he does not do so it would signify that there is some deficiency in the transaction and the transaction would not be completed and recorded on the STT or the smart card.

 

(ii)      Karnataka

 

Karnataka is the only State which has already commenced the actual implementation of computerisation of PDS operations. The Karnataka model does not contemplate issuing a smart card to the beneficiaries. The biometric details of members of each family, which constitute a unit for the purposes of allotment of stock, are loaded on the STT at the FPS to which the said family is connected. The beneficiary goes to the FPS, enters his card number in the machine and the terminal displays his entitlement and the quota available for the month. The FPS dealer then enters the required quantity into the machine, the beneficiary places his finger on the machine authorizing the transaction, which is thereafter is completed. One crucial feature of the Karnataka Model is that the STT  also provides a system of ‘voice over’ i.e. when the FPS dealer enters the quantity in the machine, a voice message is automatically generated, stating the quantity thereby making verification possible even for an illiterate person.

 

The operational responsibility, including allocation within State, identification of families below the poverty line, issue of Ration Cards   and supervision   of the functioning of FPS, rest with the State Governments. The stake holders in the distribution chain are.-

§        Department of Food & Public Distribution ,GOI

§        Food Corporation of India

§        State Food & Civil Supplies Department(s)

§        State Civil Supplies Corporation

§        Procurement and Distribution Agencies (e.g. Markfed, Hafed, Cooperatives etc.)

§        SWC, CWC & Private Godowns

§        Fair Price Shop

§        Scheme Wise Ration Card Holder

 

(iii)     Kerala

The Food and Civil Supplies Corporation gets the grains from FCI godowns and whole-sellers do further distribution. As regards computerization initiatives, a project namely Target Efficient Transparent Rationing and Allocation (TETRA) in PDS is being implemented. The Tetra application comprises of modules for Ration Card Management and Food grains allocation & lifting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

RCMS 3.0 Rations Card Management System is a workflow-based application, which covers various functions such as Issue of New Ration Cards, Addition of members, Reduction of member, Issue of Duplicate Ration card, Correction of names of members, Surrender of Ration Card etc.

 

Allocation 1.0 covers the allocations, lifting and distribution of food grains at the wholesale and retail points to FPS. Together they also cover the FPS registration and licensing.

At present the application has been pilot tested at select locations         only.

(iv)     Chhattisgarh

In Chhattisgarh unified Ration card database has been prepared which is used to generate computerized FPS Allocation, declaration of stock balance, Web based Truck Challan etc. Thus information regarding allocation, stocks, issue and sales for each FPS is now available on the central server. The State is also using Global positioning System (GPS) for tracking the movement of trucks carrying food grain.

 

This web site based software also provides a method of citizen participation in monitoring of PDS where citizen can register their mobile no. or e-mail id and can participate in the monitoring of PDS.A call centre with a toll free number is also operational for any complaints or suggestions.

 

 

(iv)            Gujarat

(v)              In Gujarat the State FCSC operates through its 192 distribution centers for supply of grains to FPSs. Ration Card computerization has been done across the State.

(vi)     Madhya Pradesh

 

In the State of Madhya Pradesh the grain is stored at SWC and CWC godowns in addition to FCI godowns as this State has de-centralized procurement operations. For distribution to FPS the grain is lifted by Lead Societies and FPSs are run by Cooperative societies. The State has developed and implemented web based FPS wise allocation off take monitoring software. The data is assimilated from the various FPS and entered at district level. The district wise FPS allocation and off take was being updated on monthly basis. However this has now been discontinued.

 

(vii)    Andhra Pradesh

 

The State has taken initiatives for computerization of Ration card household data. The household survey was carried out for a large number of parameters and ration card parameters were a subset of that. For creation Ration Card Designated Photography Location (DPL) centers were setup to collect/ verify the declaration forms, enter the beneficiary data in the computer and IRIS scanning was done for each member of family. Ration card household application is a client-server based application. In AP, Every district is maintaining its own data but no mechanism has been established for updating the data or verifying it for duplicates/bogus ration cards. The data at present is not centralized and hence beneficiary verification across districts is not taking place. Bar-coded coupons were also introduced in the State. The coupons were given after manual verification of the beneficiary. This was a difficult process and hence personalized bar-coded coupons were introduced as pilot for kerosene and Rice. These coupons were delivered at the door-step of the card holder. However no mechanism has been set up for scanning of these coupons for verifying the actual distribution.

 

(viii)   Delhi

In Delhi State the CSC pick up grain directly from FCI godowns and supplies it to FPSs. Therefore the IISFM implemented at FCI depots provides data on releases under TPDS but exact destination is not being captured currently. The feature can be incorporated once TPDS computerization scheme is initiated.  The Ration Card survey data has been digitized and laminated cards have been issued.

 

(ix)     Tamilnadu

 

Tamilnadu, being a DCP state, the States Civil Supplies Corporation is responsible for procurement, paddy milling, storage and distribution of food grains to FPS.  The ration card application is a workflow-based application, which runs at the Taluk supply office for creations and modification of cards. It is implemented on pilot basis in north district of Chennai consisting of seven zones. The printing of the card is done at the Commissioner’s Office; means issuance of any new ration card is done centrally. The cards carry a hologram and are laminated.

11.     The Committee also examined other modes of bringing about automation in the distribution process.

Jharkhand

          In the State of Jharkhand Mr. R.S. Sharma Principal Secretary Information Technology and Personnel had planned an ambitious project for introducing computerization of the Public Distribution System. However, even before it could be started on experimental basis in some districts he was transferred to the department of Water Supply, Sanitation, scientific and Technology. Project suffered a set back.

 

 

(A)     RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION (RFID)

(i)      Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

(ii)      A RFID tag is an object that can be incorporated into a product for the purpose of identification and tracking it using radio waves. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.

(iii)     Most RFID tags consist of two parts. One is an integrated circuit for storing and processing information, modulating and demodulating a radio-frequency (RF) signal, and other specialized functions. The second is an antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal.There are generally two types of RFID tags: active RFID tags, which contain a battery, and passive RFID tags, which have no battery. These tags are being used currently in enterprise supply chain management to improve the efficiency of inventory tracking and management. The U.S. supermarket chain, Wal-Mart has required its top 100 suppliers to apply RFID labels to all shipments, since January 2005.

(iv)     The Committee considered the possibility of tracking PDS stock from the godown to the FPS, by affixing RFID tags to the bags. Generally, the read range of a tag is limited to the distance from the reader over which the tag can draw enough energy from the reader field to power the tag. Tags may be read at longer ranges than they are designed for by increasing reader power. The limit on read distance then becomes the signal-to-noise ratio of the signal reflected from the tag back to the reader.

(v)     However, it appears that it appears that it might not be possible to use these tags for the purpose of long range, remote tracking of bags. Furthermore, the technology would be expensive to implement, taking into account that each bag containing PDS stock being dispatched from each godown in the country would be required to be tagged.

B.      Global Positioning System (GPS)

Global Positioning System can be used for tracking the movement of trucks carrying specified food articles (SFAs). For this, routes that have to be followed by the trucks carrying SFAs have to be prepared and specified. Devices required for GPS have to be installed on every truck and movement of the truck can then be monitored. Indian Oil Corporation and State of Chhatisgarh are using this technology.

 

The Committee is of the view that use of RFID or GPS may not be necessary if there is proper accounting of the stocks by complete automation of the allocation and distribution systems.

 

(C)     FOOD STAMPS

 

(i)      Various countries have attempted to provide food security to their citizens through the use of food stamps. Food stamps are paper vouchers which are given to the intended beneficiaries and are redeemable in exchange for foodgrains. In terms of their entitlements beneficiaries are allotted a specified amount of food stamps each month and food stocks are provided to them against production of these stamps.  This experiment has been attempted in countries such as Brazil, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, U.S.A. etc. In India as well different state governments, for example, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, etc. have attempted to provide food security by allotting food coupons to beneficiaries.

 

(ii)      One of the problems hampering the present system is that cardholders are not given their entitled quota, however the records maintained by the fair price shop are manipulated by the dealer to show that the cardholder has been given the entire quota while the balance is actually diverted. The Coupon System might be a possible method to deal with such cases.

 

(iii)     The system would function in the following manner,

·        The beneficiary goes to the nominated nationalised Bank along with his ration card and pays the amount equivalent to the amount of coupons he/she wishes to purchase, subject to the monthly entitlement. In the alternative he can buy coupons commensurate with his entitlement at one time, which would be valid for one month.

·        The Bank upon receipt of the money from the beneficiary affixes its stamp to authenticate the coupons and also makes an entry it the ration card of the cardholder. The money will then be transferred to the account of the FPS licensee.

·        The beneficiary produces the coupons at the fair price shop and collects the grains as per the denomination printed on the coupon.

·        The FPS licensee collects all the coupons and submit the same to the Circle Office at the end of the month to determine the succeeding month’s allocation. The money for the stock and the transport would be directly transferred from his account in the selected nationalized bank mentioned above to the account of the department through Electronic Clearance System.

 

(iv)     The Committee is of the view that as it had suggested in the Delhi report, in the interregnum, i.e. till end to end automation of the distribution chain is implemented as is being recommended, in order to ensure that beneficiaries receive foodgrains in accordance with their entitlements; the system of food coupons can be considered.

 

(v)     The United States had commenced the food stamp programme in the year 1939 to provide aid to families during the depression era. Food Stamp Act was introduced in 1977.  Examination of the system showed that there are many problems- some caused by the recipients who cheat the system. Paper base food coupon system is beset with fraud, abuse and waste such as coupons lost in transit and coupon used to buy non-eligible items and selling of coupons at discount for cash (trafficking). These activities diverted Food Coupons from their intended lawful purpose i.e. feeding the poor. It was also noticed that the Food Stamps were under utilized due to social stigma associated with public assistance. In an effort to improve the system the USA  has now shifted from the paper coupon system to the EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) system for delivering the food stamp benefits to the recipients. The Electronic Benefit Transfer system is similar to the computerization/ automation model which is being proposed by this committee inasmuch as this system also disburses food entitlement using Smart Card allotted to beneficiaries. In the EBT model once eligibility to benefits has been determined an account is opened in the name of the beneficiary and specified amount is deposited electronically in the account each month. The beneficiary in order to pay for food being purchased by him, swipes the Smart Card allotted to him through an electronic reader/point of sale terminal and enters a PIN (Personal Identification Number). Once the PIN is authorized a connection is established to the EBT account of the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s account is debited for an amount equal to the purchase made by him. A majority of Food Stamp recipients also preferred EBT system, though there were associated problems like the recipients not remembering their PIN, computers slowing down and equipment problems that occurred because of automation.

19.     Suggestions from NIC

          During discussions with the Committee, officials of the NIC expressed the view that the success of the computerisation project is linked to the active participation by the States, both at development & deployment stage and for regular updating of information. They suggested the following administrative set up for planning and implementation of the programme:

 

Apex Committee (AC)

Apex Committee will comprise of

Chairman: Secretary of Deptt. Of Food & Public Distribution(DoFPD)

 

The AC will formulate the Vision and Strategy, Overall goals and objectives & Policies to the National level projects

 

 

Central Project Team

Central Project Team will comprise of

 

Chairman: From DoFPD

Members: From DoFPD and NIC

 

The responsibilities of CPT will be

·                    freeze guidelines for project implementation modalities

·                    Project Costing

·                    Monitoring,

·                    Roll out plan

·                    Coordination with PAC and State Govts.

 

Process Advisory Committee

Process Advisory Committee  will comprise of Members from:

·                    DoFPD

·                    FCI

·                    NIC

·                    DoIT

·                    Concerned State Govts.

 

 

State Project Committee  (For each state)

Chairman: Principal Secretary (FCS)

 

·                    Policy formulation

·                    Coordination within state and with Central Project team

·                    Formulating project and monitoring its implementation

·                    Advisory for state tech team

·                    Engaging partners

          Project Development and Implementation

 

Central Technical Team

 

Central Technical Team will comprise of

One Project Head a senior person with good technical & domain knowledge

Members from Ministry of Food & Supply (F&S) and / or NIC

 

The CTT will formulate

·                    System Requirement Specifications

·                    System Process Design,

·                    Data Architecture

·                    Network Requirement for the project

·                    Core Application Development

·                    Implementation of the POC (Proof of Concept) with Partner (State/Centre).

·                    Project costing

·                    Action plan

·                    Coordination between State project teams

State Level

The State Project Team and State Technical Team will look after the Development Phase

 

State Technical Team

Members from State department and NIC

 

State Technical Team will customize / Localize application based on the core product centrally developed, to meet the State requirement.

 

          It is suggested that there should be uniformity in the systems adopted and implemented by the different states. A meeting of the officers Department of Food and Civil Supplies Government of India, Food Corporation of India, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, BSNL, State Food and Supplies Departments, and the National Informatics Center (NIC) should be convened urgently to determine the system to be implemented. Identify the personnel to be involved in the process. Thereafter, requirements should be freezed. The process of development of software and customizing the same in accordance with the business rules of the individual states should then follow. The entire work should be done in a time bound manner. Target dates should be fixed for completing each phase. This would help in expediting the decision making and implementation process.

 

          This Committee is however of the view that if an administrative body as referred to hereinabove is to be set up, it should not be top heavy and time lines for the implementation of the process of computerization must be strictly adhered to.

19.     Conclusions:

 

s(i)     Monitoring the functioning of PDS operations through the use of information and communication technology should be given the highest priority. This is recognized by the PDS Control Order 2001 in Clause 8 read with para 6 (6) of the Annexure to the Order.

 

(ii)      A centralized /national committee must be set up, consisting of experts from the NIC, DOT, USOF, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, National Institute for Smart Government to lay down uniform standards for software components which should be binding on States and should be compatible with the IISFM being implemented in the FCI. Subject to this States should be given the freedom to implement the project in the manner they see fit keeping in mind local conditions.

(iii)     The core members of the Central and State Committees should preferably not be   shifted till specified targets are achieved.

(iv)     An independent monitoring agency to be appointed to monitor the implementation of the project in each state and at national level.

 

(v)     The system must be web-enabled upto the national level so that transaction details are readily available on the internet as this will make PDS operations transparent.

 

(vi)     Timelines should be fixed for the implementation of the process of computerization of PDS operations, with the aid and assistance of the Central and State governments.

 

(vi)            Measures to harness alternative/renewable sources of energy such as solar energy must be implemented.

(vii)          Infrastructure being established using the Universal Service Obligation Fund and under the State Wide Area Networks or any other agency (like BSNL) must be made available for facilitating the computerization of PDS operations.

______

 



[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_card; http://www.howstuffworks.com/question332.htm

[2] Detailed Project Report on Introduction of Smart Cards In the Public Distribution System of Haryana.

[3] Minutes of Meeting dated 16th December 2008.

[4] http://www.csc-india.org/AboutCSCProject/ProjectComponents/Connectivity/tabid/174/Default.aspx

[5] http://www.dot.gov.in/uso/usoindex.htm

[6] A hobli is a group of gram panchayats.

[7] http://www.scosta.gov.in/SCOSTA_1.pdf

[8] http://www.cse.iitk.ac.in/~moona/scosta/

[9] Report of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: James L. Wayman, Biometric Identification Research Director, College of Engineering, San Jose State University, December 1997.