Under the scheme, 9260 vehicles are expected to deliver ration to at least 90 cardholders per day, for an average of 18 days per month.

Ration door delivery vehicle in Vijayawada with card holders queued up for rice pulses and sugar
news Food Saturday, February 06, 2021 - 19:59

From February 1, rice and other ration supplies in Andhra Pradesh are being delivered to the neighbourhoods of ration card holders through the recently launched delivery vehicles. The scheme, which is currently being carried out in urban areas of the state, is meant to benefit disabled persons and the elderly, who would otherwise have to wait in long queues to get their ration supplies, as well as daily wage workers and others who might have to miss work to avail the supplies. Around 9,260 vehicles have been purchased to implement the door delivery system across the state.  

Under the scheme, the operator of each vehicle (MDU) is expected to deliver ration to at least 90 cardholders per day, for an average of 18 days per month. With several teething problems surfacing in the initial days, many operators had difficulty meeting these targets. Authorities have said that these problems are being addressed, and that operators are slowly becoming more familiar and efficient with the process of authenticating beneficiaries and delivering supplies. However, the operators, who have been provided the delivery vehicles at a subsidised rate, had also expressed concerns over being unexpectedly overburdened with work of loading the supplies, authenticating card holder information and delivering supplies. With several operators voicing similar concerns, the government has now decided to increase the salary of the operators, to help them afford their vehicle EMIs and hire helpers.

Beneficiaries stand in line at the ration delivery vehicle 

How the scheme operates

The state government has provided the vehicles at a subsidised price to unemployed youth eligible for the Employment Guarantee scheme. Each vehicle costs Rs 5,81,000, of which 60% (Rs 3,48, 600) has been subsidised by various welfare corporations (SC - 2,300, ST - 700, BC - 3,800, Minorities - 660, and EWS - 1,800 vehicles). The operators were initially told that they would receive a monthly salary of Rs 16,000, of which Rs 3,000 was for fuel charges, and Rs 3,000 was to be used towards a helper’s wages. Of the remaining Rs 10,000, the operators would have to pay a monthly EMI of Rs 3,000 over the next six years, after which they would have complete ownership of the delivery vehicle.

However, several workers have complained that they have been unable to find helpers to assist with loading supplies and delivering them. The scheme is currently being implemented only in urban areas, as the State Election Commission is yet to give clearance for implementation in rural areas, where panchayat elections will be held throughout February.

Rajesh*, a vehicle operator from Christurajapuram of Vijayawada, said that at the time of availing the employment scheme, most operators were under the impression that they would mainly be responsible for driving the vehicles. Rajesh, who had been working as a school van driver before the coronavirus pandemic, said that he and many of his fellow operators who had lost their jobs as drivers due to the pandemic opted for the scheme as a better livelihood opportunity. “We were not aware of the nature of the work initially, so most of us were not prepared. We thought that we were expected to be driving the vehicle, and would have help for the remaining work. It has been difficult to find helpers, as it is not a full time job. Besides, in the city, it’s difficult to find workers who will do this job for Rs 5,000,” Rajesh said.

Civil Supplies Commissioner Kona Sasidhar told TNM that these concerns have been taken to the notice of Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, and a decision has been taken to increase the monthly salary of the operators to Rs 21,000. “The operators told us that they wanted more support towards helper charges, and that the income support also could be increased. We have now decided to pay them an additional Rs 2,000 towards helper charges. The government will also provide an additional Rs 3,000 towards their EMI payments,” Sasidhar said.

Reusable bag used for ration delivery 

Operational hiccups

The delivery process involves loading rice, dal and sugar from the ration store, driving to neighborhoods of beneficiaires, authenticating their ration cards and fingerprints, and weighing the precise amount of ration on a weighing scale that is connected via bluetooth to the billing machine which detects the quantity that the cardholder is eligible for. Sasidhar said that the delivery process saw a few hiccups in the first few days.  “The MDU operators are still getting used to the technology because they are new. We have told them we are trying to find solutions because there are practical issues,” he said.

Each vehicle has been making three to four stops in a day. Ward volunteers make calls to ration card holders one day before the delivery trip, to inform them of the delivery timings.

In some delivery vehicles in Vijayawada, a few card holders faced issues with fingerprint authentication and internet connectivity of the authentication machine. Apart from these issues, with the difficulty in finding helpers, operators have been unable to meet the daily delivery targets in the initial days. In a few delivery vehicles in Vijayawada, the local secretariat staff, including ward volunteers and revenue officials, were seen assisting the operators in the delivery process.

In the past couple of days, a few operators also refused to carry out deliveries until their concerns over insufficient pay and support were addressed. Commissioner Sasidhar said that while the delivery numbers were indeed low in the first couple of days, with some operators completing as few as 20 deliveries in a day, the numbers have slowly increased over the week. “Our daily target has been a total of around 1.5 to 1.6 lakh card holders. On Friday, delivery was done for 1.45 lakh card holders. Since it’s the first month,there are practical problems. We are addressing them so the program goes on smoothly,” he said.

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