From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Public Account
Mains level : Paper 3- PDS and FCI related issues
Solutions to Problems in Food Subsidy Delivery
The following solutions will help in addressing problems associated with PDS.
- Replacing Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of food subsidy. National Food Security Act (NFSA) states that the centre and states should introduce schemes for cash transfers to beneficiaries.Cash transfers seek to increase the choices available with a beneficiary, and provide financial assistance. It has been argued that the costs of DBT may be lesser than TPDS, owing to lesser costs incurred on transport and storage. These transfers may also be undertaken electronically. As per a report given by a high level committee of Food Corporation of India, DBT would reduce Government subsidy bills by more than Rs 30,000 crores.
- Automation at the Fair Price Shops is another important step taken to address the problem in PDS. Currently more than 4.3 lakh (82%) Fair Price Shops have been automated across the country. Automation involves installation of Point of Sale (PoS) devices, for authentication of beneficiaries and electronic capturing of transactions.
- Aadhar and introduction of Biometrics was recommended to plug leakages in PDS. Such transfers could be linked to Jan Dhan accounts, and be indexed to inflation. It facilitates the removal of bogus ration cards, check leakages and ensure better delivery of food grains. In February 2017, the Ministry made it mandatory for beneficiaries under NFSA to use Aadhaar as proof of identification for receiving food grains.
- 100% ration cards had been digitised.
- Between 2016 and 2018, seeding of Aadhaar helped in detection of 1.5 crore fake, duplicate and bogus ration cards and these cards were deleted.
- Increase the procurement undertaken by states known as Decentralised Procurement (DCP), and reduce the expenditure on centralised procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). This would drastically reduce the transportation cost borne by the government as states would distribute the food grains to the targeted population within their respective states. As of December 2019,17 states have adopted decentralised procurement.
- The Fair Price shops operate at very low margins as per findings of the Government. Hence the fair price shops should be allowed to sell even non-PDS items and make it economically viable. This will motivate them to not to resort to unfair practices in the distribution of Government subsidized food grains meant for beneficiaries of Government schemes.
- A greater and more active involvement of the panchayats in the PDS can significantly improve access at the village level.
- There is also an urgent need to set up a proper and effective grievances redressal system for both the fair price shops as well as beneficiaries