On Monday, Prime Minister Modi announced the launch of a National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) that will allow Indians to use multiple modes of transport and pay fees related to the same. The NCMC will be called “More” and functions as a smart card for public transit.
Dubbed the “One Nation, One card” programme, the NCMC will allow users to pay for travel fare, toll tax, and parking charges.
Modi announced the NCMC in Ahmedabad.
The card is expected to help commuters across India by creating a centralised payment system, very similar to travel cards like the OV-Chip card used to pay for public transit in the Netherlands.
How does NCMC work?
The NCMC runs on RuPay, a card scheme created by the National Payments Corporation of India.
The RuPay scheme “was conceived to fulfill RBI’s vision to offer a domestic, open-loop, multilateral system” that can be used by all banks and financial institutions in the country.
RuPay is designed and made in India with the hope of making the country’s finances digital and people less dependent on hard cash.
The NCMC is a single, bank-issued prepaid card that a customer can use on the metro, bus, suburban railways, toll, and parking.
People will be able to use their NCMCs at Automated Fare Collection (AFC) systems and don’t need to scramble for change during their commutes. They can also reload their card balances at these systems.
At the Delhi Metro, these automated gates where the NCMC is accepted are called Swagat and the transaction systems where the card can be swiped are called Sweekar.
“These cards are going to remove all your difficulties while travelling”, said Modi in a series of tweets.
He added that previous such cards were not integrated throughout the country, meaning that a card in one city was useless in another. The new NCMC, however, has solved this issue and can work at a national level.
The NCMC can also be used to withdraw money and shop and will be compliant with all debit and credit cards, and banks like Andhra Bank, Canara Bank, Union Bank, and more.
Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) Durga Shanker Mishra said that the NCMC was a sign of progress of urban transport systems.
Mishra also noted that the State Bank of India (SBI) and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation were instrumental in the making of the NCMC.
Will this work?
Beyond traffic and sometimes uncontrollable crowds, Indian commuters have to deal with cash transactions on their commute as well, namely ensuring they have loose change to pay for the fare.
The NCMC seeks to change this by enabling “seamless travel”, meaning it allows commuters to have only one card to pay for a variety of public transit services.
“The National Urban Transport Policy envisages a single ticket over all systems of public transport”, says the MOHUA.
However, this card cannot be used for cab or auto fares. The NCMC working efficiently is also dependent on the reliability of the country’s digital infrastructure. This is a vulnerability in rural India.
For example, the Economic Times reports that only 41,000 ATMs are available for the 77 crore people living in rural areas.
This means that there are only five ATMs in use per every lakh rural citizens in the country.
While initiatives such as the NCMC are a step in the right direction, the country must build the infrastructure to support them and ensure its wide utilisation.
Currently, the AFC systems are under trial and available only at a few checkpoints on the Delhi Metro.
Moreover, Indian commuters must also be made aware of these schemes so that they can avail of them.
Finally, such development schemes should be launched all year-round, not only in the months leading up to a general election.
Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius.