Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

PDS has had a spectacular run. That may not last

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMGKAY

Mains level : Paper 3- Significance of PDS and challenges ahead

Context

2020-21 was one of Indian agriculture’s finest moments, as memorable as 1967-68 that inaugurated the Green Revolution. Agriculture was the only sector to grow 3.3 per cent in 2020-21, even as the economy overall contracted by 4.8 per cent.

Increase in grain offtake under PDS

  • NFSA along with PMGKAY has led to a massive jump in grain offtake through the PDS.
  •  More importantly, this increase has largely taken place in the poorer states.
  • UP, Bihar and Jharkhand together accounted for 21.6 per cent of national grain offtake in 2012-13, which was pre-NFSA.
  • Sales of rice and wheat under various government schemes totalled 92.9 million tonnes (mt) in 2020-21 and 105.6 mt in 2021-22.
  • This was as against an average offtake of 62.5 mt during the first seven years after the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013-14 and 48.4 mt in the seven years preceding the legislation.

Provisions under NFSA

  • The NFSA legally entitles up to 75 per cent of India’s rural and 50 per cent of the urban population — translating into some 813.5 million people — to receive 5 kg of grain per person per month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 3/kg for rice.
  • In the wake of the Covid-induced economic disruptions, a new Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) scheme was launched giving NFSA beneficiaries an extra 5 kg grain per person per month free of cost.
  • PMGKAY was implemented for eight months (April-November) in 2020-21 and 11 months (May-March) of 2021-22.

PDS reforms in states

  • Only a handful of states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh — had well-functioning PDS till the early 2000s.
  • In the late-2000s, Chhattisgarh initiated reforms to curb diversion/leakages by entrusting the running of fair price shops to cooperatives and local bodies (as against private licensees), making timely allocation and supplying grain directly to PDS outlets (bypassing middle-level distribution agencies), and using IT to track dispatches right from procurement centres to points of sale.
  • Chhattisgarh’s example was emulated by Odisha, followed by Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal — all by 2015-16.
  • The three poorest states are the latest entrants to the list.
  • The accompanying charts show the offtake of rice and wheat both at the all-India level and for the three poorest states as per the NITI Aayog’s National Multidimensional Poverty Index — Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh (UP).
  • UP particularly has seen its grain offtake soar from 9.5 mt to 17.3 mt in the last two years.
  • Out of the 17.3 mt (10.7 mt wheat and 6.6 mt rice) distributed in 2021-22, 7.8 mt comprised free grains under PMGKAY.
  • The PDS, indeed, turned out to be the only effective social safety net during the pandemic.
  • Some states went beyond rice and wheat.

Challenges

  •  The expansion of the PDS, especially post-NFSA, was underwritten by the superabundance of rice and wheat in government granaries.
  • Official wheat procurement is likely to halve this time from last year’s record 43.3 mt, because of a poor crop singed by the abnormal spike in March temperatures.
  • Rice stocks are far more comfortable, though the precarious supply situation in fertilisers raises questions about the prospects for the coming kharif season.
  • Looking ahead, the Food Corporation of India’s stocks can probably sustain the pre-2020-21 annual offtake levels of 60-65 mt – enough for NFSA, but certainly not schemes such as PMGKAY.

Conclusion

The PDS was originally meant to protect ordinary people from extraordinary price rises. Whether it can do that at a time of renewed global inflation remains to be seen.

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