Unintended consequences of PDS reforms
Many States have initiated PDS ‘reforms’ that are hurting millions.
Biometric mix-ups – Jharkhand Case study
Aadhaar-based biometric authentication was made compulsory for PDS users recently. This move backfired as it resulted in:
- Large exclusions especially among vulnerable groups such as widows and elderly
- Considerable inconvenience faced due to connectivity and biometric failures
- Revival of corruption: PDS entitlements meant for those who failed the biometric test was siphoned off
This was worsened by mass-cancellation of ration cards not linked with Aadhaar by the state govt (in mid-2017). There was collateral damage as:
- Many families were unable to link their Aadhaar despite trying to do so.
- eg. – family of Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year old Dalit girl who died of hunger Sept 2017
Planned Transition to DBT
- Initial hiccups / teething problems
- Enormous time is wasted in the process of obtaining cash from banks to buy ration (at market rates)
- Daily wage earners suffer the most due to this.
- It’s a greater nightmare for people with mobility problems,
- like the elderly or disabled
- Moreover, handling of cash due to DBT goes against the push for less-cash economy
The downside of Top-down approach
Growing centralisation and technocracy have raised concerns in the field:
- Aadhaar-less ration cards are cancelled without notice.
- Pensions are discontinued without the victims being told what the problem is.
- Job cards are cancelled just to meet the “100% seeding” targets.
- Elderly persons with rough fingerprints are deprived of food rations without compensation.
- New technologies will have teething problems.
- But, effective grievance redressal and information sharing mechanisms must be put in place to minimise hardships.