The Jharkhand government is likely to modify the online application facility as the rural poor are finding it difficult to apply for new “green” ration cards for availing benefits under the public distribution system (PDS).
“We met food secretary Arun Kumar Singh today and he assured to help,” economist Jean Dreze told The Telegraph on Monday afternoon.
He said they would again have a detailed discussion with the food secretary on Wednesday.
The state government recently announced expansion of PDS coverage by giving green cards to another 15 lakh eligible people from among those who would apply by September 30.
But a delegation of the state unit of Right to Food campaign had met food minister Rameshwar Oraon on September 23 and requested him to activate the application link that had not been working till the previous day and also to extend the last date of application. The minister assured the delegation those would be done.
“But when we were trying to help rural people in Latehar district fill the application form online, many of them could not provide enough information to ensure that the online facility accepted their applications,” Dreze said.
He said they have written another letter to Oraon on behalf of the NREGA Sahayata Kendra, Manika (Latehar), requesting him to make the online application facility user-friendly.
The system demands an applicant to furnish his/her Aadhaar, bank account and mobile numbers, Dreze said. Asked to specify the problems, he said they found many poor households did not have at least one of those numbers.
“However, the food secretary assured these details would not be made mandatory anymore,” Dreze said. He said they were also given to understand that the last date for filing online applications would be extended.
Besides extending the deadline, making the online system user-friendly and making Aadhaar, bank account and mobile numbers optional, they also requested Oraon to consider the cases of newly-married women for enrolling as beneficiaries.
It may happen that such women were included as ration card-holders at their parents’ homes, they said. The delegation suggesting that the names of such women should be included at their in-laws’ places and deleted from cards at their paternal places.
The delegation also urged to remove the cap of 15 lakh beneficiaries and to include all applicants who met the priority criteria.
As Oraon suggested during their meeting on September 23, the proposed meeting with the food secretary on Wednesday is likely to discuss in details how to act upon their suggestions.