SRINAGAR: After the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was adopted in Jammu Kashmir last year, the government said that all fair price shops (ration shops) would be computerised for hassle-free implementation of the Act. After more than a year, the computerisation has nowhere been done.
Fair Price or FP shops were to have electronic weighing scales, Point of Sale (PoS) devices for cashless transaction, and bar code readers to scan ration cards. These, too, have not materialised in most of the FP shops.
Sources in the department of Food Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs said that the implementation of NFSA is not being taken seriously due to “lackadaisical approach” of officials responsible for it.
“The process should have been completed last year, that too within a few months following the government announcement. But to do that, officials were required who would pursue the task seriously; unfortunately, with a few exceptions, hardly any are found in the department,” the source said.
He said that the officials were struggling to even tender out the work of installation of PoS devices. Tenders have been invited three times, but given to none.
“The tenders were issued thrice and ended up being cancelled each time, for reasons best known to the senior officials. The minster concerned hardly seems bothered,” said the official.
In June last year, Minister for FCS & CA, Choudhary Zulfkar Ali, said that the government had taken various initiatives, such as printing of 3 types of ration cards to avoid misappropriation of ration, installation of CCTV Cameras/IP cameras at major godowns to keep surveillance on PDS (public distribution system) stock, and punctual payment for carriage, commission, handling charges and transportation charges.
For such purpose, he had said, an online supply chain management, online allocation of food grain, and online grievance redress mechanism had been put into place, and these would spring into action once the “end-to-end computerisation of PDS operations” is done.
Insiders said that only half the work on setting up these mechanisms has been done, the rest either kept in abeyance or going on at snail’s pace.
With a project cost of about Rs 20 crore, the e-PDS project was introduced to check pilferage and diversion of food grain and to ensure that food grain reached the desired destination within a stipulated time.
Nisar Ahmad Wani, Director of the FCS & CA department, said that the process of installation of devices is going on and would be completed within four months.
“Due to some reasons we had to cancel our tenders thrice, but now we have tendered the work out to an agency which has promised us that the process will be completed within the next four months,” Wani said, refusing to reveal the name of the agency that will install electronic devices at FP shops.
Wani said that the department has already made online the supply chain management, allocation of food grain, and list of ration card subscribers. This will bring transparency and accountability, he said. “Work is also going on the rest of the initiatives and they, too, would be finalised soon,” the director said.