by July 18, 2013 0 comments

Centralized, Online, Real-Time, Electronic PDS, short for COREPDS is a highly impactful initiative by the Govt. of Chattisgarh to automate the entire PDS (Public Distribution System) in the state. It’s currently running in urban Chattisgarh, with an ambitious target to cover the entire state, including the rural areas in the next two years.

With COREPDS, a mechanical authentication mechanism has been introduced for the beneficiaries. This is to ensure there are no proxy issues. Plus, as a result of this project, beneficiaries are no longer restricted to purchase commodities from one FPS. They can buy from another FPS, if the previous one is not giving them good service. In this project, the FPSs are equipped with a PoS device having GPRS Connectivity.

Each BPL beneficiary is provided with a Smart Ration Card while the APL beneficiaries have been registered with their mobile numbers. PDS commodities are delivered to a BPL beneficiary with smart card authentication and to APL beneficiary with OTP (One Time Pass-word) authentication. They can now go to any FPS to claim their entitlements. Portability has introduced the fear of losing customers in FPSs thereby increasing competition among them. This has brought a vast change in service delivery quality by the FPS owners. They not only provide the right quality and quantity of commodities, but their behavior and treatment of beneficiaries has also improved considerably. COREPDS is designed for biometric authentication of the beneficiary using either the Aadhaar infrastructure or Rashtriya Swasthya Beema Yojana (RSBY) biometrics. COREPDS has been operational in 151 FPS of Raipur city. It is predominantly an online system but allows a limited number of offline issues in case of temporary connectivity problems.

Company Scenario

Before deployment: Widespread proxy issues in the Public Distribution System were preventing genuine beneficiaries from receiving their share of entitlements in a convenient manner. Lack of competition gave rise to sub-standard and unfair treatment of beneficiaries by FPS owners. 

What was deployed: In COREPDS, FPSs are equipped with a POS device with GPRS connectivity. Food grains are given manually by the FPS personnel but the authentication and recording of the transaction on the server is done through this POS. Each BPL beneficiary is provided with a Smart Ration Card (SRC) and APL beneficiary has been registered with her mobile number.

After deployment: Due to equal distribution of beneficiaries in all nearby FPSs, the average waiting time has reduced to half an hour from 2 to 3 hours before implementation of COREPDS. Mechanical authentication at the time of delivery completely checks the record of proxy issues and thus reduced diversion. The portability offered in COREPDS creates fear of losing customers which brought about a drastic change in the behavior of FPS personnel while dealing with the beneficiary. In COREPDS, a beneficiary is able to get all the commodities at one time. Even when one commodity is not available in an FPS, the beneficiary can take the same from near-by FPS. This has lead to a drastic reduction in the number of trips of the beneficiary to take commodities to 1.5.

Implementation partner: National Informatics’ Centre, Chhatisgarh

 

Major challenges

Quite a few issues led to the deployment of COREPDS. Sometimes, the FPS was not open when a beneficiary wanted to buy his/her share of rations, leading to multiple trips. Some FPS owners would put an “out of stock” board, even when they had sufficient stocks. If a FPS was open, then the sales person would not treat customers with respect or even mis-behave sometimes. They would even over-charge or deliberately under-weigh commodities.

FPS owners created false demand through these malpractices due to which long queues would form outside their shops. So the beneficiaries had no choice but to buy the commodities no matter how much they had to suffer. COREPDS aims at resolving all these problems. Now, if a beneficiary faces any of the above problems, he/she can simply go to any other FPS that offers better service. The fear of losing customers to competition is not something that any FPS owner can afford, hence they have no choice but to stop their malpractices.

 

COREPDS not only provides for capturing of real-time transaction data at the FPS but also offers portability to the beneficiaries to address the above problems. There were clear evidences of proxy issuances (recording an issue to a beneficiary without actually issuing to the beneficiary) before the implementation of COREPDS, mostly in case of APL allocations and Kerosene, as demand for these items is comparatively less. Another motivation behind the initiative is to save cost to the Government by checking proxy issues with the help of smart card/OTP authentication.

Project Head’s Perspective: Vikas Sheel, Secretary (Food), Government of Chhattisgarh
[image_library_tag 535/81535, alt=”vikassheel” border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ style=”float: left;” width=”102″ height=”112″ ,default]How did you convince the key stakeholders (management, seniors, etc) for rolling out this project?

The concept of portability of entitlements to empower the beneficiary with the choice of FPS thrilled the political leadership and convinced them immediately. Good performing Fair Price Shops readily accepted the idea because of the chance of getting more business share in the new scenario. FPSs with bad intentions, who were really in minority, did not have any option except to accept the change to continue in the business.

How did you overcome user resistance for using this deployment?

Resistance from beneficiaries was minimal as they were getting a new right to go to any FPS with the change. Most of the FPSs could be convinced that the new system incentivises good performers with more business. The resistance from a few FPS did not worry the department much, as their beneficiaries were served from other FPSs.

What is the next big IT project that you’re working on?

At present, COREPDS is working in urban shops only. The mammoth work in front of us is to rollout COREPDS throughout the state, including rural areas. We are targeting the same in the next two years.

 

 

Implementation Partner’s Perspective: A.K. Somasekhar, Technical Director, National Informatics Centre
According to you, what was the most critical success factor for this project?

A proper risk mitigation strategy and a robust business continuity plan are the main reasons for the success of the project.

The greatest risk of FPS automation is FPSs themselves. FPS automation acts against the interest of some FPSs who may intentionally try to discredit the system by not following the specified protocols. Portability is the mitigation strategy. Any FPS that tries to discredit the system loses its business.

Our design constraint is that no genuine beneficiary should be denied her entitlements due to technical or operational issues and hence we provided a robust business continuity plan.

The Implementation

In COREPDS, FPSs are equipped with a POS device with GPRS connectivity. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh has named the POS device used in COREPDS as “Annapoorna ATM”, as it works like an ATM for food grains (food grains are given manually by the FPS but the authentication and record of the transaction on the server is done through this POS). Each BPL beneficiary is provided with a Smart Ration Card (SRC) and APL beneficiaries have been registered with their mobile number. A BPL beneficiary can take her rations (as per entitlement) at any FPS by producing her SRC. FPS’ sales person inserts the SRC in the POS device. The POS device reads the ration card number and sends it to the server through GPRS to get her entitlement balances. The FPS sales person enters the quantities to be issued to the beneficiary and submits. The server updates the transaction and gives the success report. Thereafter a receipt is printed and the commodities are then issued to the beneficiary. For the next transaction, the beneficiary can choose to go to another FPS as her food account balances are maintained on the server. The same portability has been offered to an APL beneficiary with the help of One Time Password (OTP) authentication through her registered mobile phone. COREPDS is designed for biometric authentication of the beneficiary using either the Aadhaar infrastructure or Rashtriya Swastha Beema Yojana (RSBY) biometrics. This not only leads to savings in precious time and money for the Government but also relieves the beneficiary from the burden of carrying multiple cards.

 

Team Speaks: Manish Kochar, Scientist, National Informatics Centre, CGSC
 [image_library_tag 534/81534, alt=”manish-kochar” border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ style=”float: left;” width=”91″ height=”101″ ,default]”We keep a track of the locations of FPS using GPS (Latitude-longitude co-ordinates). These can be plotted on a map, but this is viewable only to authorized personnel. Not all FPS have their lat-long data yet. This is enabled by means of the GPS module of our website. Along with plotting FPS locations on maps, you can also track the district-wise reports of shops whose lat-long data has/hasn’t been obtained so far. The COREPDS website displays real-time data of all transactions taking place at each of the FPSs that have been covered so far and this information is visible to the public”

 

 Beneficiaries Speak

BPL Beneficiaries:

“Now we get a detailed slip for the exact amount of ration that we have obtained from our quota, thus accountability is maintained. If a particular FPS doesn’t have our required quantity of goods, I can get it from another FPS”.

– Deepak Sahu, Orange BPL ration card owner

“I benefit from the portability in terms of being able to obtain goods at the date when I need them, without needing to worry about their availability.”

– Dinesh Baghel

“We get our quota on time in one trip itself, the pilferage has reduced because of the authentication mechanisms which prevent impersonation.”
– Godala

APL Beneficiaries:
” I now get my quota on time compared to the earlier system.”

– Arjun Kumar Verma

“I still take goods from the same FPS where I used to earlier because I was satisfied with their service and hence felt no need to make use of portability.”

– Leela Ram

The Impact

COREPDS has been operational in 302 FPSs of Raipur, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund cities and the Mahasamund rural block, benefiting 2.5 Lakh beneficiaries. The outcome of the project is given below

 

Reduced waiting time for service delivery: Due to equal distribution of beneficiaries in all nearby FPSs, the average waiting time has reduced to half an hour from 2 to 3 hours (as was the case before implementation of COREPDS).

[image_library_tag 530/81530, alt=”img” border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ style=”float: left;” width=”155″ height=”155″ ,default]

 

Reduction in diversion: Mechanical authentication at the time of delivery completely checks the record of proxy issues and thus reduced diversion.

Behavioral change in FPS personnel: The portability offered in COREPDS creates a fear of losing customers which brought about a drastic change in the behavior of FPS personnel while dealing with the beneficiary.

Reduced number of trips of beneficiaries to take different commodities: In COREPDS, a beneficiary is able to get all the commodities at one time. Even when one commodity is not available in an FPS, the beneficiary can take the same from another near-by FPS. This has lead to a drastic reduction in the number of trips of the beneficiary to take commodities to 1.5.

[image_library_tag 529/81529, alt=”hgf” border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ border=”0″ style=”float: left;” ,default]

Churning effect (Beneficiaries who have taken commodities from other FPS using their new empowerment to chose) – 20%

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