Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen praised India’s Public Distribution System (PDS). He said that markets couldn’t address issues of poverty and starvation on their own, that government programs must resolve these issues. India has built the largest, though not necessarily the strongest, PDS in the world. This is a commendable step for development in India.
The Public distribution system (PDS) is an Indian food Security System established under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution.
India’s Public Distribution System (PDS) is the largest distribution network of its kind in the world. PDS was introduced around World War II as a war-time rationing measure.
Evolution of PDS
Before the 1960s, distribution through PDS was generally dependent on imports of food grains. It was expanded in the 1960s as a response to the food shortages of the time; subsequently, the government set up the Agriculture Prices Commission and the Food Corporation of India to improve domestic procurement and storage of food grains for PDS.
By the 1970s, PDS had evolved into a universal scheme for the distribution of subsidised food. In the 1990s, the scheme was revamped to improve access of food grains to people in hilly and inaccessible areas, and to target the poor.
Subsequently, in 1997, the government launched the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), with a focus on the poor.
In September 2013, Parliament enacted the National Food Security Act, 2013. The Act relies largely on the existing TPDS to deliver food grains as legal entitlements to poor households. This marks a shift by making the right to food a justiciable right.
Objectives of Public distribution system:
Timeline of PDS
Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS),
It aims to provide subsidised food and fuel to the poor through a network of ration shops. Food grains such as rice and wheat that are provided under TPDS are procured from farmers, allocated to states and delivered to the ration shop where the beneficiary buys his entitlement. The centre and states share the responsibilities of identifying the poor, procuring grains and delivering food grains to beneficiaries.
How TPDS operates
Identification of eligible households under existing TPDS
The government launched TPDS in order to target food grains entitlements to poor households. Therefore, identification and classification of beneficiaries is crucial to fulfil the goals of the scheme. Categorisation of beneficiaries APL and BPL Under TPDS, beneficiaries were divided into two categories:
BPL beneficiaries that are currently covered under TPDS were identified through a detailed process when TPDS was initially launched.
Each state government was responsible for identifying eligible BPL households on the basis of inclusion and exclusion criteria evolved by the Ministry of Rural Development. Such households were entitled to receive a BPL ration card.
APL households were not identified and any household above the poverty line could typically apply for an APL ration card.
Process of identification of BPL families
The National Food Security Act, 2013
The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people. It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA 2013) converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the Government of India.
It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System.
Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements. The Midday Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
Under the provisions of the bill, beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (or, PDS) are entitled to 5 kilograms (11 lb) per person per month of cereals at the following prices:
Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.
Importance of Public Distribution System :-
Problems associated with PDS
The public distribution system of India is not without its defects. With a coverage of around 40 million below-poverty-line families, a review discovered the following structural shortcomings and disturbances:
Mechanisms to strengthen TPDS
Role of Aadhaar
One of the key problems in the implementation of TPDS is the inclusion and exclusion errors in the identification of beneficiaries. Proposals have been made to integrate the Unique Identification or Aadhaar number with several government schemes, including TPDS to address this problem.
The Aadhaar number would be used to accurately identify and authenticate beneficiaries entitled to receive subsidies under TPDS and other government schemes. According to a study by the Unique Identification Authority of India, using Aadhaar with TPDS would help eliminate duplicate and ghost (fake) beneficiaries, and make identification of beneficiaries more accurate.
Technology-based reforms of TPDS implemented by states
To improve the current system of the PDS, the following suggestions are furnished for: