Context: Over 10 crore people have been excluded from the Public Distribution System because outdated 2011 census data is being used to calculate State-wise National Food Security Act coverage, according to a report.
- National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 gives legal entitlement to 67% of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas) to receive highly subsidized food grains under the Public Distribution System.
- Coverage under the Act is based on the population figures of Census, 2011.
- Under the Act, foodgrain is allocated @ 5 kg per person per month for priority households category and @ 35 kg per family per month for Antodya anna Yojna (AAY) families at a highly subsidized prices of Rs. 1/-, Rs. 2/- and Rs. 3/- per kg for nutri-cereals, wheat and rice respectively.
- In 2013, State-wise ratios were worked out for rural and urban areas, using National Sample Survey data, in such a manner that everyone below a given national “per-capita expenditure benchmark” is covered, meaning that PDS coverage should be higher in poorer States.
Significance: India's lockdown has been extended till May 3.
- While the economy, businesses and daily life is affected for many, those facing life-and-death situations are the country's poor and its stray animals, many of whom are daily wage workers and are left with no source of income to buy basic food and medicines to sustain.
- People who have lost their livelihoods due to the lockdown depend on PDS for daily survival.
- People left out of PDS Coverage: India’s population was about 121 crore in 2011 and so PDS covered approximately 80 crore people.
- However, applying the 67% ratio to a projected population of 137 crore for 2020, PDS coverage today should be around 92 crore.
- Even taking into account growing urbanisation, the shortfall would be around 10 crore people.
- The biggest gaps are in Uttar Pradesh, where 2.8 crore people may have been left out, and Bihar, which would have had almost 1.8 crore people excluded from the NFSA.
- No update of PDS coverage: The Centre’s calculation of the actual number of people to be covered in each State has remained “frozen.”
- Many State governments are reluctant to issue new ration cards beyond the numbers that will be provided for by the Central quota, making it difficult to reduce exclusion errors in the PDS.
- There are about seven lakh pending applications for ration cards in Jharkhand, because the State government stopped issuing new ration cards several years ago to avoid exceeding the numbers provided for by the Central government.
- Delay in 2021 census: With the 2021 census process being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, any proposed revision of PDS coverage using that data could now take several years.
About the Public distribution system
- It is a government-sponsored chain of shops entrusted with the work of distributing basic food and non-food commodities to the needy sections of the society at very cheap prices.
- Wheat, rice, kerosene, sugar, etc. are a few major commodities distributed by the public distribution system.
- Food Corporation of India, a government entity, manages the public distribution system.
- Concerns: The system is often blamed for its inefficiency and rural-urban bias.
- It has not been able to fulfill the objective for which it was formed. Moreover, it has frequently been criticized for instances of corruption and black marketing.