- The Public Distribution System (PDS) evolved as a system of management of scarcity through distribution of foodgrains at affordable prices. Over the years, PDS has become an important part of the Government’s policy for management of the food economy in the country.
- PDS is supplemental in nature and is not intended to make available the entire requirement of any of the commodities distributed under it to a household or a section of the society.
- Under the PDS, presently the commodities namely wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene are being allocated to the States/UTs for distribution. Some States/UTs also distribute additional items of mass consumption through the PDS outlets such as pulses, edible oils, iodized salt, spices, etc.
- India’s PDS seeks to provide a food safety net to poor and vulnerable people living below the poverty line.
- It aims at fulfilling the following three objectives:
- availability of food
- The PDS system has the capacity to boost agriculture and reduce hunger and malnutrition by enhancing economic growth.
- In 1997, the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was introduced, replacing the almost universal PDS. It was targeted at poor people below the poverty line who were identified through a Below Poverty Line (BPL) survey. In general, under the TPDS, major food grains including rice and wheat are sold from Fair Price Shops at significantly lower prices than the market rate.
- The TPDS was functional in almost all the states and UTs until 2012. In 2013, there was a paradigm shift in the food security programme in India through the notification of the National Food Security Act (NFSA). It is a transition from a welfare approach to a rights-based approach.
- The legislation confers a legal right on beneficiaries to obtain entitled quantities of food grains at highly subsidised prices. It also extended legal rights to women and children and other unprivileged groups including the destitute, homeless, disaster- and emergency-affected people living in starvation for free meals or meals at an affordable price.
- The coverage under the NFSA has increased dramatically compared with the TPDS. The total coverage is 67% of the population. It is 75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas at the national level.
- The eligible beneficiaries are identified using state-specific criteria and termed as Priority Households (PHH). They are allotted to receive food grains of 5 kg per person per month at the issue prices of Rs.3.00, Rs.2.00 and Rs.1.00 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains, respectively.
- The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
- The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Pregnant women and lactating mothers will be entitled to meals and maternity benefits of not less than Rs 6000.
- Children upto 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards. In case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals, beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.
- The Act also contains provisions for setting up grievance redressal mechanisms at the District and State levels.
- The eldest women of the household of age 18 years or above will be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.
- PDS is operated under the joint responsibility of the Central and the State/UT Governments. The Central Government, through Food Corporation of India (FCI), has assumed the responsibility for procurement, storage, transportation and bulk allocation of food grains to the State Governments. The operational responsibility including allocation within State, identification of eligible families, issue of Ration Cards and supervision of the functioning of Fair Price Shops (FPSs) etc., rest with the State Governments.
- Under centralised procurement, the FCI buys rice and wheat from the farmers at a Minimum Support Price (MSP) and sells it to states at the Central Issue Prices (CIP) (a lower price that is determined by the government and must be lower than the MSP). Many states further subsidise the price of food grains before selling it to beneficiaries.
What’s in the news?
- SMART-PDS is a technological driven initiative and the need of hour, therefore, all the States/UTs should make earnest efforts to implement SMART-PDS at the earliest, said Union Minister Piyush Goyal.
- The Union Minister emphasised on a transparent and accountable system urging to reduce human intervention and promote automation in the existing processes.
- He said transparency should be of utmost importance for free supply chain of foodgrains under Public Distribution System.