The Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ms. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha informed that under Public Distribution System (PDS) Reforms, the Department in November 2014 had issued implementation guidelines to all States/UTs for the installation of electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices with biometric scanners in all Fair Prices Shops (FPSs) for transparent, efficient and ensured distribution of the subsidised foodgrains to the beneficiaries, covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), through digital transactions and as far as possible with biometric authentication of beneficiaries.
So far, more than 4.98 Lakh (93.5%) of total 5.33 Lakh FPSs in the country are having ePoS devices. The availability of these devices with biometric authentication facilities at the FPSs in States/UTs is a key enabler of ration card portability under the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) plan for distribution of foodgrains to the beneficiaries from any FPS of their choice in the country.
In the wake of COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the Department had issued advisories to all States/UTs dated 18.03.2020 and 03.04.2020 for taking all necessary precautions and preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in PDS operations. Ensuring COVID appropriate behavior at all places of PDS operations including all FPSs were advised such as practicing social distancing norms, staggered distribution timings, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, face masks at all times, avoiding accumulation/queuing of people, availability of soaps and water at all places, frequent disinfection of ePoS devices, biometric scanners, maintaining hands hygiene before and after biometric authentication, ensuring extended distribution timings and distribution in maximum number of days per month. These measures were also re-iterated to States/UTs from time to time.
To ensure the availability of internet/connectivity for ePoS devices at FPSs in remote locations / shadow/no network areas in States, a list of such FPS locations has been shared with the Department of Telecommunications to resolve the internet/connectivity related issues. Further, with the availability of the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) plan in most States/UTs, the beneficiaries are empowered to lift their entitled foodgrains from any FPS having operational ePoS device without facing any internet/connectivity related challenges.
The process of distributing foodgrains through ePoS devices is very simple and does not require any special digital literacy among beneficiaries to lift their entitled foodgrains through electronic transactions. However, time to time trainings are provided to FPS dealers to use the ePoS devices. Besides, time to time trainings are also conducted for the State/District level officials and other field functionaries to ensure efficient and smooth technology driven PDS operations. Further, States/UTs are advised to ensure that ePoS printed transaction receipts are provided to all beneficiaries in local language, besides SMS are sent on their registered mobile numbers to ensure complete transparency in distribution process.