Public Distribution System in India: An overview


  • The Public Distribution System (PDS) needs to be systematic and lenient,especially towards the poor.

What is Public Distribution System?

  • The Public Distribution System (PDS) evolved as a system for distribution of food grains at affordable prices and management of emergency situations.
  • Public distribution system (PDS) is an Indian food security system.
  • Established by the Government of India under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and are managed jointly by state governments in India.
  • It distributes subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor. This scheme was launched in June 1947.
  • It functions through a network of Fair Price Shops at a subsidized price on a recurring basis.

How did PDS evolve?

  • Till 1992, PDS was a general entitlement scheme for all consumers without any specific target.
  • In 1992, PDS became RPDS (Revamped PDS) focussing the poor families, especially in the far-flung, hilly, remote and inaccessible areas.
  • In 1997 RPDS became TPDS (Targeted PDS) which established Fair Price Shops for the distribution of food grains at subsidized rates.

What is Targeted Public Distribution System?

  • Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was introduced in India from June 1997.
  • Under TPDS, Central government is responsible for procurement, allocation and transportation of the food grains up to the designated depots of the Food Corporation of India.

What is the significance of the Public distribution system in India?

The following are the advantages of the public distribution system:

  • It has helped in stabilising food prices and making food available to consumers at affordable prices.
  • It has helped in avoiding hunger and famine by supplying food from surplus regions of the country to deficient regions.
  • The system of minimum support price and procurement has contributed to increase in food grain production.

What are the limitationsof the distribution system in India?

The following are the disadvantages of the public distribution system;

  • Instances of hunger occur despite granaries being full.This points to certain lacunae or inefficiency in the system.
  • High level of buffer stocks often leads to wastage of food grains and deterioration in quality.
  • The storage of foodgrains inculcates high carrying costs on the government.
  • The provision of minimum support price has encouraged farmers to divert land from production of coarse grains that are consumed by poor, to rice and wheat.

How does TPDS function?

The steps involved are

(1) Procurement of food grains

(2) Storage of food grains

(3) Allocation for families

(4) Transportation of food grains.

What are the suggested ways?

  • The need of the hour is PDS reforms to ensure that public distribution functions the way it is intended. Technology based reforms are suggested.

Technology Based reforms:

  • End to end computerization would bring in transparency in the whole process. It would help to prevent leakages and diversion of food grains to a great extent.
  • The different type’s reforms undertaken by different states are:

Adhaar Linked and digitized ration cards: 

  • This allows online entry and verification of beneficiary data. It also enables online tracking of monthly entitlements and off-take of foodgrains by beneficiaries.

Computerized Fair Price Shops: 

  • FPS automated by installing ‘Point of Sale ‘device to swap the ration card. It authenticates the beneficiaries and records the quantity of subsidized grains given to a family.


  • Under the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, cash is transferred to the beneficiaries’ account in lieu of foodgrains subsidy component.
  • They will be free to buy food grains from anywhere in the market.
  • It is estimated that cash transfers alone could save the exchequer Rs.30,000 crore every year.

Use of GPS technology: 

  • Use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track the movement of trucks carrying foodgrains from state depots to FPS which can help to prevent diversion.
  • SMS-based monitoring: 
  • Allows monitoring by citizens so they can register their mobile numbers and send/receive SMS alerts during dispatch and arrival of TPDS commodities

Use of web-based citizen’s portal

  • Public Grievance Redressal Machineries, such as a toll-free number for call centers to register complaints or suggestions.
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