Sugar, Wheat, Even Soap, on a SmartCard

It is a dingy little shop piled with wheat and rice grains,
granulated sugar and grimy cans of oil —surely the last place with which you
would associate an IT initiative of any kind. Even more difficult to imagine, is
the association between the people that form the queue before the ration shop
and the concept of automation.

But for the first time in the country, ‘smart’ ration
cards will be used for the distribution of supplies through the state public
distribution system (PDS) in Kerala.

How the
Smart Ration Card Works…

  • The customer swipes his
    card on the electronic machine

  • Items
    and the quantity he is eligible for are displayed

  • The customer punches in
    his requirements

  • Billing is instant, the
    amount is collected by the shopkeeper

  • Goods are delivered to
    the customer

Informs Kerala civil supplies department director
Sivasankaran, "The pilot project is being launched in four ration shops in
Thiruvananthapuram city to cater to 2500 card holders. The project is being
implemented by Delhi-based IT firm ‘SmartChip’. The project will
subsequently cover the entire state." As part of the Rs 5-lakh project, the
software, the implementing company would supply terminals in ration shops and
smart card readers.

As a result of the new system, the shop owner is spared the
drudgery of preparing bills and manually entering the list of items in the
ledger. The customer can walk into a shop and punch his card on the electronic
machine. The display unit will show the list of items and the corresponding
quantity he is eligible for. The customer himself can select the items and the
quantities he requires, by punching the entry on the machine. The bill will be
prepared instantly by the machine, the amount collected by the shopkeeper and
the goods disbursed.

The card will contain information about the head of the
family – his age and profession and details of his family members. In the
future, a photograph of the head of the family will also be incorporated in the
ration card.

In the present system, PDS goods that are not sold often get
diverted to the black market. The automation will help rationing officers to
check stock and sale of goods on a daily basis. With the networking of the PDS
shops and rationing offices, the government can plan to set up a centralized
system for monitoring and evaluation. Under the pilot project, each card will
cost Rs 50, but if the entire card holder database of 65 lakh is covered under
the project, the cost would come down to Rs 11 per card. Presently, printed
ration cards are sold at the rate of Rs 15 per card. Thus, the smart card will
prove to be cost effective for the user as well.


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