CHENNAI: While the ration card has been upgraded to a smart public distribution system (PDS) card, the homeless still have no provision through which they can apply for the card.
The widely appreciated universal PDS in Tamil Nadu, however, is not accessible to those who do not have a door number. The `330-crore project which aims to make the system fully digital is applicable only to the previously existing 1.89 crore cards.
The digital facelift, targeted at excluding bogus and repeated beneficiaries, does not have a plan to include the ones who need it the most, said S Sivagami, a homeless person who lives on a pavement on Anderson Road in Ayanavaram.
“We’ve lived here for three generations and we received our voter ID and Aadhar card here on this pavement. But we haven’t received our ration cards,” she said. With further progress in technology, she fears that they may never get access to fair price civil supplies.
Older card-holders, who have linked their mobile number and Aadhar details with their cards, can get the smart cards at their respective PDS outlets after getting an SMS from the authorities. Sivagami’s family along with the 11 other families that live on the pavement, will have to begin the application process all over again.
“They have asked them for deletion certificate (from older cards), and they have never had a card. Then they asked for a no-card certificate that has to be issued by the Civil Supplies Department only. We’ve already submitted the no-card affidavit from the notary,” said Geetha R, an activist working for the right of the homeless and workers in the unorganised sector.
Responding to this, a senior official from the civil supplies board said that cards may be provided only on a case-to-case basis.
“We don’t have a direct provision for the homeless to claim civil supplies as we don’t have a comprehensive study about such people in the state,” the official said, adding that data on the people that cook on streets is unavailable.
A study, conducted by the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) in 2015, reveals that 34 per cent of the homeless exclusively cook their food and 50 per cent more depend on multiple sources such as cooking, buying from petty shops or even begging.
Since smart cards will be linked to Aadhar details, it can be established that homeless people do not have a card elsewhere. “While smart card aims at improving transparency, it should also ensure access to people at the bottom of the society like us,” said Lalitha S, another pavement dweller in Ayanavaram.