|Demand of the question Introduction.Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss various issues of PDS. Conclusion.Way forward and solutions.|
Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, the PDS ensures 5 kg of food grain per person per month to those who hold these cards. Antyodaya families, or the poorest of the poor, are entitled to 35 kg of food grain per family per month under the Act.There are dozens who claim that they are not receiving food grain under the PDS.
Various issues related to Public Distribution System are:
- Inclusion issues: The deletion of ration cards, problems in linking ration cards to Aadhaar the system seems to create more problems than it solvesexcluding many families rather than including them.The Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011, which helps identify PDS beneficiaries, is also seen as faulty and outdated.Identification of poor by the states is not fool proof. A large number of poor and needy persons are left out and a lot of fake cards are also issued.Fair Price Shop owner gets fake Ration cards and sell the food grains in the open market.
- Connectivity issues: In a majority of the ration shops of the State, delivery is through an electronic point of sale (EPOS) machine. It is through this machine that the biometrics of a beneficiary, mostly thumb impressions, have to be entered and verified from the server database. The EPOS machine works only if it is connected to the Internet. If the beneficiaries face no hiccups in any of these stages, they get their quota of food grain.
- Dislocation:It is wrong to believe that once a fair price shop is set up, the common man’s requirements of consumer goods are met at reasonable prices.The fair price shops do not often lift the sanctioned quotas due to one reason or the other, causing dislocation in the smooth flow of commodities from producing centres to numerous (and often distant) consuming areas.
- Poor Quality:The poor quality of commodities supplied seems to be the proximate cause of poor off-take of commodities like wheat and rice in urban areas. Easy availability in the open market also tends to reduce the quantity of purchase from the PDS.Experience has shown that when the supply of a commodity covered under the PDS is abundant; consumers turn away from the fair price shops and buy their requirements as far as possible from the open market. Thus the PDS is effective mainly in times of shortages and rising price.
- Lack of Integrated Approach:An efficient PDS requires strong link among production, procurement, transportation, storage and distribution of the selected commodities. In the past, responsibilities for these have been divided among many people and, thus, there has been a lack of an integrated system or an integrated approach which alone could ensure an efficient PDS.
- Lack of Demand-Supply Balance: Continuous increase in production in response to rising demand is absolutely essential to ensure price stability. There are few problem areas of continued demand-supply imbalance in essential commodities like pulses, edible oils, sugar, etc. It has not been possible to achieve technological breakthrough in the production of pulses and oilseed while sugarcane production has been marked by cyclical fluctuations. The problem posed by the stagnation in the production of pulses is compounded by the fact that the supply of pulses cannot be increased significantly through imports.
- Lack of Profit Margin:Low profit margin turned out to be the major complaint of fair price shop-owners. Most of the shopkeepers have to go to warehouses more than once to take delivery of their allotted quotas.
- Partial Success:The role of PDS in controlling prices has been partly effective as in the case of food-grains and to some extent in edible oils. While procurement of cereals has been rising in recent years, the off-take has fallen sharply. The existence of a buffer stock is acting as a cushion against any attempt by traders to raise prices artificially in times of shortage.
- Leakages:The strengthening of the PDS has almost put an end to black marketing of food-grains in the country. However, in the case of edible oils, despite massive imports year after year, strict control on their prices could not be enforced largely due to leakages from the PDS. There are instances of imported oil being sold in the open market at higher prices.
- Urban Bias:A close look at the geographical distribution of fair price shops reveals that administrative convenience rather than the essential objectives of the PDS had determined its expansion. It has an urban bias, with most of the shops being located in cities and towns. As a consequence the benefits of PDS are available to the urban rich and not to the rural poor.
- Public Procurement:It may also be emphasised that the operation of price control and rationing has to be supplemented by public procurement. The government’s procurement drive has not been very effective over the years.
The following measures should be taken to improve the present Public Distribution System(PDS):
- Implementation of measures such as door-step delivery of food grains should be explored.
- Viability of fair price shop operations should be improved.
- Greater monitoring and vigilance of fair price shop, and PDS system should be done through use of technology.
- Food grains off take should be improved.
- Correct identification of beneficiaries is needed. In cases where technical issues related to technology are faced, there an exception should be made and food grain should be distributed, keeping proper record of the house.
- Smart system communication like information provided to consumers by SMS about rations should be employed.
The Government has undertaken several measures from time to time for streamlining the implementation and improving the efficacy of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). Measures such as door-step delivery of food grains, correct identification of beneficiaries, improve food grains off-take, greater monitoring and vigilance, improving viability of fair price shop operations, etc. are welcome. More needed to be done to remove PDS inefficiencies.