pds-reforms-one-nation-one-ration-card

Context: A new Central Sector Scheme on "Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS)" has been approved by the Department of Food and Public Distribution mainly for the implementation of National Portability for the beneficiaries to lift the foodgrains from any FPS in the country.  

More about the news

  • Further, 10 States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura have enabled intra-State level portability for their ration card holders to lift the entitled foodgrains from any FPS within the State. 
  • Two more States of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have implemented intra-State portability in few FPS areas only.

Background:

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.
  • It is established under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution.
  • PDS is operated under the joint responsibility of the Central and the State Governments. 
    • The Central Government, through Food Corporation of India (FCI), has assumed the responsibility for procurement, storage, transportation and bulk allocation of food grains to the State Governments. 
    • The difference between the economic cost of food grains and Issue Prices is incurred by the Central Government as consumer subsidy. 
    • The Central Government is also under obligation to procure food grains for meeting the requirements of the buffer stock to ensure food security of the country. 
    • The operational responsibility including allocation within State, identification of eligible families, issue of Ration Cards and supervision of the functioning of Fair Price Shops (FPSs) etc., rest with the State Governments. 
  • Under the PDS, presently the commodities namely wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene are being allocated to the States/UTs for distribution. Some States/UTs also distribute additional items of mass consumption through the PDS outlets such as pulses, edible oils, iodized salt, spices, etc.

Concerns with PDS: 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, black marketing, Ghost Subscribers, Leakages, Pilferage Lack of digitization.

  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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. 

PDS reforms

  • Digitization and AADHAR seeding: Cutting pilferage from the PDS is becoming far easier with almost all of the 23 crore ration cards in the country being digitised and 56% of these already seeded with unique identification number Aadhaar. 
    • Besides, several states have now installed electronic point of sale (ePOS) devices at their fair price shops to track the sale of foodgrains to actual cardholders on a real-time basis.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT scheme) for subsidies has resulted in significant savings across welfare schemes, including Rs 27,000 crore in PDS, LPG distribution and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
  • Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) scheme
    • The main objective of the scheme is to introduce nation-wide portability of ration card holders under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), through 'One Nation One Ration Card' system. 
  • 'One Nation One Ration Card' system. 
    • This system enables the migratory ration card holders/beneficiaries to lift their entitled foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) of their choice in the country by using their existing/same ration card issued in their home State/UT after biometric/Aadhaar authentication on electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices installed at the FPSs. 
    • Under this initiative, there is no added burden on any State/UT, as the quota of foodgrains distributed to other States’/UTs’ beneficiaries through national portability, shall be periodically reconciled and adjusted between concerned States/UTs. 
    • Existing system of foodgrains distribution by States/UTs to own beneficiaries remains same/ unaltered, as this system intends to largely benefit the migratory beneficiaries under NFSA who frequently change their place of dwelling in search of employment, etc. across the country.

Way forward: 

  • The central vigilance committee led by D. P. Wadhwa has made several useful suggestions including automation of the weighing system
    • Doorstep delivery of food grain to fair-price shops
    • Speeding up cases pending in courts under the Essential Commodities Act and setting up inspection squads. 
  • The Shanta Kumar committee set up to look into the restructuring of Food Corporation of India has recommended reducing the number of beneficiaries under the Food Security Act—from the current 67 per cent to 40 per cent. 
    • It has also recommended allowing private players to procure and store food grains, stopping bonuses on minimum support price (MSP) paid by states to farmers, and adopting cash transfer system  so that MSP and food subsidy amounts can be directly transferred to the accounts of farmers and food security beneficiaries. 

Rooting out corruption requires action by the executive and the judiciary, and also more directly through gram sabhas.

NFSA, 2013

About 

  • National Food Security Act, 2013 came into being with the objective to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • It converts entitlements of existing food security programmes of the Central Government including the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child development scheme and PDS into legal entitlements.

Coverage

  • The NFSA aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds (67%) of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas; 81.31 cr beneficiaries).

Women Empowerment

  • The head of every eligible household shall be a woman(18 years of age or above) for the purpose of issuance under this act.

Entitlements

  • Grains like wheat, rice and coarse grain will be distributed at the subsidized price of Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Rs. 1 and uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month is provided.
  • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) (poorest of the poor) households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.

Nutritional support to Women and Children

  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children are entitled to get meals under the prescribed nutrition by MDM and ICDS.
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers will be entitled to get maternity benefit of Rs.6000.
  • NFSA 2013 will provide high nutrition food to children from the age group of 6 months to 14 years.

Bodies under NFSA

  • Under NFSA, there is no provision for any Commission at the national level or District level. The Act provides for a State Food Commission (SFC) in every State/UT, for the purpose of monitoring and review of implementation of the Act.

A paradigm shift -Right based approach

  • The act also provides for the payment of food security allowance to entitled persons by State Government in case of non-supply of entitled quantities of foodgrains, within such time and manner as may be prescribed by the Central Government. Accordingly, the Government has notified the Food Security Allowance Rules, 2015.

Food Corporation of India

About

  • FCI was set up under the Food Corporations Act 1964, in order to fulfil following objectives of the Food Policy.

Objective

  • Effective price support operations for safeguarding the interests of the farmers.
  • Distribution of food grains throughout the country for the public distribution system.
  • Maintaining satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of food grains to ensure National Food Security.
Source: The Hindu